Columbus Leaders Push To Enforce Code Changes For Massage Parlors

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When several massage parlors were raided across Central Ohio in 2014, it opened the eyes of community leaders like Zach Klein, Columbus city councilman.

“We want to make sure in the city limits that we have upstanding businesses that operate above board but at the same time we also want to protect women,” said Klein.

Investigators rescued 18 women from those parlors. Authorities say they were forced to live at the parlors, sleep on massage tables and were never allowed to leave.

“It's a heinous situation where they are beaten, abused,” said Klein. “They suffer both mental and physical trauma and we have a chance to interject ourselves, not only as a city governed, but also as a society.”

So, Columbus leaders now want to control who gets to own massage businesses. Under current code, people with a history of prostitution charges will not be granted a license to operate. Klein is proposing an expansion on the code which would extent the same restriction to those with a history of sex trafficking, drug trafficking or coercion of drug use.

“Why would we want someone who has a history in that criminal sphere to be able to legally operate a license and operate a business like that in the city of Columbus? That simply is the void of common sense,” said Klein.

Rodney Merritt is a chiropractor. His office in located in an office park on Hilliard-Rome Road near one of the massage parlors that was raided last year.

“I was a little oblivious to how bad sex trafficking is,” said Merritt. “I can't imagine here we are in 2015 and we have issues with sex trafficking.”

Merritt says he'd like to see more probing into exactly what's going on behind closed doors.

“I think there needs to be some regulations on what type of massage are you performing? If it's a legitimate massage, then I'm all for it. If it leans more toward prostitution and sex trafficking, I'm definitely against it.”

Klein hopes to pass the new code by the first of November.