County supervisors sought to fight human trafficking in massage parlors with new restrictions approved Tuesday.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously voted in new requirements for massage parlors in unincorporated areas, aimed at creating health standards and better regulation.
“It’s imperative to me to protect both the employees and the customers, by sending in public health inspectors to ensure the health and safety of our public,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, who represents the 4th District. “Sadly, we have learned that the illicit massage industry has become a safe haven for human trafficking, both sex and labor, and I feel like it is our duty to put a spotlight on this and see if we can eradicate it.”
Inspectors will also be trained on how to observe and identify signs of human trafficking, Hahn added.
Under this ordinance, advertisements for unsolicited services are prohibited and a notice must be posted regarding slavery and human trafficking, according to a Public Health news release. Affected massage parlors in the SCV include those in the Castaic and Stevenson Ranch areas.
There was also a look at the financial side of the industry. All transactions must be completed in the reception area, and not behind closed doors, according to Assistant County Counsel Nicole Davis Tinkham.
Lt. Daniel Stanley of the Sheriff’s Department’s Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force declined to comment on any specifics regarding the ordinance; however, Sheriff’s Department officials Tuesday mentioned past work with Los Angeles County on crafting the ordinance.
Task Force officials also declined to comment on the ordinance.
Along with these additions, these businesses will also need to possess both a Public Health permit and a business license. Prior to this ordinance, these businesses were not required to have a health permit. Businesses can apply for the permit through the Environmental Health Division of the Department of Public Health.
“Massage establishments, when operated professionally, are valuable, healthy and therapeutic options for the community,” said Tinkham.
There will also be a new set of requirements for massage tables and sanitation regulations for linens. Businesses are expected to abide by the updated requirements by July 2, the release adds.
City officials are also looking into revising their policies, Carrie Lujan, communications manager for the city of Santa Clarita, said in an email.
“The city (of Santa Clarita is) reviewing the changes proposed by the county to determine whether to implement these updated rules in Santa Clarita, as well,” she wrote Thursday.
In April 2015, the Santa Clarita City Council amended a previous municipal code to help prevent illicit activities in massage establishments in the city of Santa Clarita by limiting their hours of operation.
“Staff recommends the limiting of massage businesses hours of operation to between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in an effort to deter illegal activities, while not conflicting with typical operating hours of legitimate massage businesses,” a City Council agenda report stated.
Prior to this amendment and the passage of Assembly Bill 1147 in 2014, the city legally could not regulate these establishments, as the California Massage Therapy Council had sole jurisdiction.
“I do believe that the proposed ordinance has struck a balance between regulations that keep employees and customers safe,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of Public Health, “and the need to support legitimate business activities that are the very backbone of economic security for many of our community residents.”
To report human trafficking, call 1-888-539-2373 or text BeFree (233-733).