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One Colorado city ordinance stopped illicit spas, will Colorado Springs follow?

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- As the Colorado Springs City council evaluates its options to help police shut down 35 illicit massage parlors with ties to human trafficking, 13 Investigates is exploring an ordinance that helped one Colorado city eliminate most of its illegal spas in less than a year.

In 2018, the City of Aurora passed an ordinance that makes it tougher for people to operate massage parlors as a front from illegal sexual activities and suspected human trafficking.

Other cities across the country have also passed or considered similar ordinances as an attempt to crack down on illicit massage parlors. Officials in Billings, Montana are currently proposing an ordinance based on Aurora's massage therapy ordinance, according to TV station KRTV.

But in a council meeting on Monday some Colorado Springs officials said that there may be legal concerns with Aurora's ordinance.

"They are a little worried it is unconstitutional. I have to study that and take a look at that," Strand said. "We don't want to craft an ordinance that goes too far and is going to get overturned," Councilman Tom Strand said.

The City of Aurora's Manager of Tax and Licensing, Trevor Vaughn, said on Tuesday morning that their ordinance has never been legally challenged.

"We can screen them out And deal with some of the issues that are specific to these businesses that legitimate massage therapy businesses do not do," Vaughn said.

Video provided 13 Investigates by the city of Aurora shows how inspectors audit the illegal businesses and shut them down. It shows inspectors asking for massage therapy licenses, asking if they live there and taking pictures for their investigation.

Aurora's ordinance requires massage parlors to have proper licensing, prohibits employees from living inside the parlors and doesn't allow sexual advertising for massage therapy businesses.

The audits are random and primarily target parlors suspected of selling sex acts, according to Vaughn.

"Making sure that these that these individuals have their dignity and their freedom and that they are actually conducting actually conducting legitimate massage therapy," Vaughn explained.

A similar measure could be effective in Colorado Springs. Police told the city council on Monday that most masseuses working at illicit parlors do not have valid state massage therapy licenses.

"Today, you can see that we don't have any of these businesses. Currently, we don't have any that we suspect of engaging in human trafficking. We don't believe we have any that are currently engaged in prostitution. So we think it's been very successful," Vaughn said.

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Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is the Assistant News Director for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.


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