Roswell targets illegal massage spas with ordinance change

Roswell Mayor Kurt Wilson said police know where most illegal massage spas are located that engage in illicit activity and a change in the ordinance will help end the exploitation of vulnerable young women. (Courtesy City of Roswell)

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Roswell Mayor Kurt Wilson said police know where most illegal massage spas are located that engage in illicit activity and a change in the ordinance will help end the exploitation of vulnerable young women. (Courtesy City of Roswell)

Roswell has amended an ordinance in an effort to stop human trafficking and prostitution in the city.

In a Thursday email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Roswell police Public Information Officer Tim Lupo said that a previous ordinance regulating massage spas allowed violators to move easily to different locations in metro Atlanta. A new requirement for employee permits will allow police to charge those who may be involved in criminal acts and prevent them from moving to another location for illegal business, he added.

During a Monday meeting, City Council approved a change in the city ordinance and will now require massage therapists who are not licensed by the state to obtain a permit from the city of Roswell. Massage businesses cannot be within 300 feet of a church or school, or more than 300 feet from a state route and hours of operation must between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The ordinance does not apply to hospitals and professional health care establishments.

There were 80 commercial massage businesses operating in Roswell last December, according to officials.

Police know where most illegal massage spas are located that engage in illicit activity, and the ordinance change will help end the exploitation of vulnerable young women, Mayor Kurt Wilson said during the meeting.

Police Chief James Conroy added that an array of sex-related crimes including “human trafficking, prostitution for hire and masturbation for hire” take place at illegal spas in Roswell.

“This is an industry with workers that are at high risk and we need to do everything we can to protect those employees,” Conroy said, adding that tighter restrictions give Roswell more tools to prosecute violators of the new law.

Officials said they also want to protect the legal massage businesses that operate in Roswell.

“This is also an effort to embolden and empower and offer profitability for those that are running clean businesses ...,” Councilwoman Lee Hills said. “ ... We want everyone doing legal business to thrive.”

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