COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Colorado Springs City Council is discussing a possible plan of action against illicit massage parlors on Monday during a work session.
This comes after 13 Investigates has followed the story for two years -- dozens of massage parlors in the Springs have offered sex services for sale, but few people have been prosecuted.
The council heard from the Colorado Springs Vice Unit on the work they have done to try and shut down the illegal parlors. A PowerPoint presentation put together by CSPD for Monday's session indicates there are at least 35 illicit parlors police are aware of.
Commander Scott Whittington with the Metro Vice division acknowledged directly, "We believe human trafficking is occurring in these businesses, absolutely."
CSPD Chief Vince Niski has been investigating and "looking into prostitution and illegal massage parlors for quite some time now."
CSPD has busted several parlors for prostitution since 2014, but they haven't resulted in the businesses shutting down. Our special report, Hiding in Plain Sight, aired in 2019 and showed that dozens of parlors were offering sex acts -- since then, we've helped business owners take action against these parlors in their shopping centers.
"We've got to admit that when KRDO is more effective in shutting these places down than the police department," said Colorado Springs City Councilman Bill Murray. "We've got to start looking at the bigger picture of things."
Other councilmembers agreed and said it's worth looking into new regulations.
"One of the things I have asked our land use folks is to research and talk about where we are with our ability to enforce things like a land-use code, or other methods that don't have that 'beyond a reasonable doubt' standards, so we can continue to provide a safe neighborhood and get this out of the places where it should not be going on," said councilman Wayne Williams.
Police say a new ordinance would help. Commander Whittington said if they had an ordinance that would allow investigators to inspect records similar to liquor establishments, it could lead them to better records.
The City of Aurora has an ordinance aimed directly at illicit spas. It requires parlors to have proper licensing and requires regular audits to make sure people aren't living inside the business.
Councilmember Tom Strand agrees that more action should be taken, but he's afraid the Aurora ordinance won't hold up in court.
"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."