Roswell residents worry illegal massage parlors on the rise

Roswell officals will look to actions taken by neighboring cities, such as Johns Creek, to stop illegal activity at massage parlors. In 2013, police made arrests at Zen foot massage. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)
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Roswell officals will look to actions taken by neighboring cities, such as Johns Creek, to stop illegal activity at massage parlors. In 2013, police made arrests at Zen foot massage. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

Exotic massage parlors and sex trafficking are a growing concern for some Roswell residents, said Councilman Marcelo Zapata on Wednesday. Years ago, suspicious spa owners opened businesses in office parks and stayed under the radar by frequently changing the name. City Council members worry the trend is resurfacing. They are considering ways to deter such businesses from setting up shop in Roswell again.

During a community development and transportation committee meeting, Zapata said a few residents have seen massage parlor activity in their neighborhood and want it gone.

“It’s a problem,” he said, “We have to use more resources to shut them down. The question is how can we isolate these unscrupulous spas. We all know that this [leads to] human trafficking.”

Business owners are closely scrutinized by staff when applying for licenses, and the police department monitors name changes. Even so, Council members want more strict zoning and licensing requirements for the establishments.

Seven to 10 years ago massage parlors or spas with prostitution rings, and stores selling sex toys, books and films operated in significant numbers in Roswell. “It was a big problem and we were doing several prosecutions,” said Bob Hulsey, Assistant City Attorney.

Today, much of the industry draws attention to online goods and services. But Hulsey suggests Roswell stay proactive against illegal spas.

“I think we ought to talk to [Police] Chief Conroy and get recommendations about any enforcement tools that they’re lacking, that we might be able to [implement],” he said.