COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- In just a few months, the City of Colorado Springs will shift how law enforcement can handle illicit spas within the city. Beginning in September, Colorado Springs will regulate massage businesses by requiring them to have a license.
Police say there are currently around 30 illegal massage businesses in Colorado Springs actively selling sex for money and trafficking women.
"Our human trafficking team spend a lot of time working those," Colorado Springs Metro Vice Unit Commander Doug Trainer told 13 Investigates. “The illicit spas themselves certainly are significant 'cause there are a lot of them and not enough detectives to focus in that realm.”
Former Metro Vice Unit Commander Scott Whittington told 13 Investigates it takes his team hundreds of hours to build a case against just one massage parlor.
Since 13 Investigates started its ongoing investigation into the world of illicit spas three years ago, pimps have been convicted and elected leaders have taken action.
A new ordinance passed Colorado Springs City Council is scheduled to take full effect on September 1, 2022. The ordinance requires massage businesses to apply for an annual license that costs $110.
At the same time, the ordinance outlaws sexual activities in the spas, advertisements for sex, and bars employees from living inside a business.
“By September first of this year, it will be illegal to operate a massage business without a license,” Colorado Springs City Clerk Sarah Johnson told 13 Investigates.
The Colorado Springs City Clerk's Office sent out nearly 3,000 letters informing businesses offering massage services of the new law. However, the city clerk's office says there is a large portion of businesses that received a mailer that aren't eligible for the new massage business license.
The ordinance would not apply to the following businesses involved in massage services:
- Public and private schools
- Government entities
- Training rooms of a recognized professional or amateur sports organizations
- Health care professionals licensed or registered with any state to provide massage services to the public
- Beauty salons
- A spa or resort operated on the premises of a hotel with at least 100 rooms for overnight guests
13 Investigates visited nearly one dozen spas either with sexual reviews or advertisements on escort websites online to find out if they plan on complying with the law.
Three businesses - A&S Spa, One Spa, and Ivy Spa - say they are applying for the new massage business license.
A majority of the businesses either left their doors locked or said employees told our investigators they physically couldn't speak English.
13 Investigates paid for a subscription to read reviews on the website "Rubmaps." Previously, the Colorado Springs Police Department said they use the reviews on Rubmaps to identify potential illicit spas.
For New Asian Massage, located in a strip mall off Platte Avenue, a Rubmaps review posted on June 5, 2022, began by describing a sexual encounter with a female employee at the spa in detail. The customer in the review says he would return to the business, but doesn't believe the business will remain open long.
"With these rules for (massage parlors) that the City of Colo Springs is putting out I foresee most will be closing,” the Rubmaps reviewer said.
13 Investigates visited New Asian Massage and asked a female employee if we could speak with a manager about the new massage business license. However, the employee said she did not know.
Commander Doug Trainer with the Colorado Springs Metro Vice Unit, who took over as commander this month. said the new city law is a great new tool to police illicit spas.
The new Metro Vice Commander says if a massage business, that isn't exempted, doesn't possess a license on September 2, 2022, then officers could issue a summons, which could lead to a fine.
Should a business refuse to comply with a summons or pay a citation, the City of Colorado Springs says the business could be issued a new criminal citation each subsequent day from the city.
The city could also look to pursue other actions, like a public nuisance citation, or other civil actions.
Massage businesses can start applying for the new license starting on July 1, 2022.