By Shawn Raymundo
The city’s police services contract with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department will be amended to give the law enforcement agency oversight in reviewing applications for massage parlors—a move meant to bolster efforts to combat human trafficking locally.
City councilors last week unanimously approved the amendment, giving OCSD the additional review authority when a prospective massage establishment applies for permits and business licenses with the city.
“I think it does create another layer for the good operator,” Councilmember Gene James said during the Nov. 17 council meeting. “However, there (are) so many bad actors on this, it creates that extra layer of due diligence to attack that human trafficking (issue).”
Allowing OCSD oversight of such applications was included in the massage parlor ordinance the city council passed in late August. Its intent is to strengthen the city’s regulations on the sector and shut down illicit establishments, ideally bringing an end to human trafficking at massage parlors in Orange County.
In addition to giving OCSD the additional authority, the ordinance also now holds landlords more accountable for tenants operating illicit massage parlors and added certain restrictions to legitimate businesses.
The council’s vote last week made the task of reviewing contracts an official service included in the OCSD’s contract—and at no additional charge, according to the city.
Prior to the ordinance and the latest council vote, application reviews for massage parlors had fallen on the shoulders of the city’s planning department.
Under OCSD’s purview, the agency will be able to conduct background checks on the businesses’ operators, potentially rooting out illicit activity, which is largely run by crime syndicates and organizations.
Law enforcement officials have said that giving police services that authority adds another layer of scrutinizing applications, as law enforcement can see where the applicant has operated a parlor before and find out whether he or she has been cited or shut down for illicit activity in other parts of the state and county.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.