SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Prostitution houses in Manatee County posing as massage parlors have been a major problem in the area for years.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office says it’s targeting about a dozen of these businesses, and says some of them even have ties to human trafficking.
They are called massage parlors, but law enforcement says something more nefarious is going on behind closed doors. “Most of the occupants of these places are unlicensed, but basically they operate as houses of prostitution," Sergeant Jason Powell of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said.
Powell says it’s been a problem for the county for years. Powell says many of the parlors located in the county have been busted for prostitution, money laundering and many other charges.
Now, the county will partner with the sheriff’s office to enforce stricter rules at these businesses.
“I know there are ordinances in place and there will be discussions as to whether or not those ordinances will be applicable as far as enforcing against these places” Powell said.
“Our county attorney is reviewing that ordinance to see if there is further enforcement that can be used with these laws that are already on the books.”
That’s where County Commissioner Misty Servia come in. She represents the southwest portion of Manatee County, where many of these parlors are located. She says these parlors are hurting the quality of life for many in her district.
“My constituents tell me that this is a hinderence," Servia said. "I’m trying to remove any hurdles that we have to redeveloping our urban corridors and these businesses are a hurdle.”
Seargeant Powell say to protect yourself, always do your homework to make sure you’re walking into a reputable establishment.
“You can search the establishment by name and search the license status and search the license number to see if it’s valid," Powell said.