SF to Crack Down on Illicit Massage Parlors

August 1, 2013 Updated: July 31, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO—On the heels of an FBI sting this week leading to the arrest of 17 alleged pimps in the Bay Area in a case involving underage prostitution, a San Francisco supervisor wants to do more about human trafficking.

Supervisor Katy Tang plans to more effectively regulate massage parlors, long suspected of being fronts for illicit activities.

The legislation she introduced Tuesday at the full Board of Supervisors will more clearly codify penalties for violation of health codes. Currently, penalties are only regarded as recommendations, while “many loopholes in terms of enforcement” exist, Tang said.

Additionally, she wants to ensure that those who offer massage are fully trained and vetted. Masseuses would need to be licensed with the Department of Public Health, carry a photo ID, and have a clean criminal record.

In an informal survey, Tang’s office counted 30 massage parlors in the Richmond District alone, which is “an enormous overconcentration for this type of use in our neighborhood.”

Though it seems obvious, any sexual activity, consumption of alcohol, or non-prescription drugs is explicitly forbidden on the premises.

Tang said she will ensure with any regulations to be “careful about not putting potential victims of human trafficking in further harm’s way.”

It is common, that local newspapers carry ads from massage establishments that more or less blatantly advertise certain services by promising, for example, “many beautiful Asian girls to choose from.”

In 2005, law enforcement agents arrested more than two dozen people on allegations of smuggling foreign women into the country and forcing them to work as prostitutes in massage parlors in the San Francisco Bay Area.