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Inspections net 71 violations at massage parlors

The efforts are part of an ongoing investigation involving allegations of prostitution and human trafficking, police say.

May 09, 2012|By Mona Shadia

Recent inspections of 20 massage parlors in Huntington Beach uncovered 71 municipal code and building safety violations, and at least three parlors are facing temporary closure.

The May 5 inspections were part of an ongoing investigation regarding allegations of prostitution and human trafficking, according to a report posted on the Huntington Beach Police Department's Facebook page. The social media posting was confirmed by Police Chief Ken Small.

No arrests were made for prostitution or trafficking.

"Everybody knows that trafficking is taking place," Small said, adding that it's often difficult to get victims to cooperate with police out of fear of retaliation.

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Women involved in prostitution at massage parlors are often forced into it as a way to pay off the debt they owe to those who brought them to the United States, he said.

Employees performing massages with customers' genitalia exposed were among the violations noted during the inspections, as were masseurs and businesses operating without proper licenses.

Initiated by residents' complaints, and an increase in the number of parlors throughout the city, the inspections were conducted by the Police Department with assistance from the city's code enforcement, building and safety departments, the city Fire Department, and the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, Small said.

Since 2009, when state legislation loosened the grip of local law regulations on massage parlors, Huntington Beach has seen more than a 500% increase in those businesses.

An undercover investigation of three parlors prior to the recent inspections resulted in the arrest of five female employees for prostitution and related crimes, Small said.

Many of the women who work in the establishments are immigrants, which raises concerns about human trafficking, according to the report.

Follow-up inspections are expected to take place at an undisclosed time and date.

mona.shadia@latimes.com

Twitter: @MonaShadia

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