By Eric Heinz

On Monday, July 31, members of the i5 Freedom Network, based in San Clemente, hosted an informational meeting regarding human trafficking issues related to Orange County.

Brenda Wells, the director of the i5 Freedom Network, said people need to inform their children about the dangers of human trafficking, even when they’re at places like the mall or other high-density areas that people frequent.

Traffickers, Wells said, will sometimes situate themselves in these areas and look for potential victims.

Brenda Wells, director of the i5 Freedom Network, speaks to a room of about two dozen people on Monday, July 31, at the Outlets at San Clemente during an educational meeting to combat human trafficking. The organization is currently looking to amend the city’s massage business ordinance to require more information and transparency of such facilities. Photo: Eric Heinz
Brenda Wells, director of the i5 Freedom Network, speaks to a room of about two dozen people on Monday, July 31, at the Outlets at San Clemente during an educational meeting to combat human trafficking. The organization is currently looking to amend the city’s massage business ordinance to require more information and transparency of such facilities. Photo: Eric Heinz

Many times, traffickers will post fake job ads intended to target young people who are likely running away from home or are susceptible to these traps.

The organization has been combing over the laws set in place in Huntington Beach and Garden Grove regarding massage therapy establishments, which Wells said can be a hub of lewd behavior.

In some cases, barcode tattoos have been put on people who are trafficked as a way to identify them as “property,” Wells said.

At a recent City Council meeting, Wells submitted an amendment to the city’s massage therapy business code, which would require:

  • “All lit signage (light blight), open/closed signs etc., be turned off at close of business (9 p.m.)
  • Maintain well-lit entrances at all times for safety of establishment and employees as well visibility of after-hours access.
  • Owner/landlord/property managers sign affidavit stating that they are aware of the type of business leasing their space, and that they acknowledge that code violations leading to business license revocation will lead to a moratorium on that type of business on their property for a period of two years.
  • Post in conspicuous locations for patrons and employees to see the NHTH (National Human Trafficking Hotline) poster in multiple languages (English, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean) or get training by City-approved training resources and post a certificate of completion issued through the city.
  • Notice to patrons that rooms do not offer complete privacy and are subject to unannounced inspection by authorized personnel.
  • Background checks to include other businesses owned wholly or in part by the applicant.
  • Require names and addresses of proposed employees and managers.
  • Include Declaration of Awareness of risks inherent with unregulated massage establishments.
  • Determine what kind and how many code violations lead to suspension of license or operating permit.
  • Subject to County approval: Establishment Registration Certificate and applications be issued by the chief of police.”Click here to read the full i5 Freedom Network’s proposed changes to the city’s massage therapy business ordinance

In 2015, a massage therapy business owner was arrested in San Clemente for sexually abusing his clients. He was sentenced to a year in jail and has to register as a lifetime sex offender.

In order to become part of San Clemente’s current ordinances, City Council will have to vote to approve it. The city altered its massage business ordinance in 2015 to strengthen it further after the state Legislature passed the California Massage Therapy Act, which requires businesses to voluntarily register with the state’s Massage Therapy Council.

For more information on these topics, visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org and www.i5freedomnetwork.org.

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