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Posted on: May 5, 2017

LEGISLATION SPARKED IN JOHNSTON: City Makes it Tougher on Illicit Massage Operations

Massage Parlor

Before the Iowa legislature ended its most recent legislative session, members of the house and senate passed a law that actually stems from efforts started right here in Johnston. Once signed by Governor Terry Branstad, the law will support a city's ability to proactively create regulations that better screen massage therapy business owners who seek to establish storefronts for prostitution and human trafficking.

On July 1, 2016, the City of Johnston began requiring all massage therapy businesses to obtain a license to operate such a business within the city of Johnston. The primary purpose of this ordinance is to identify and address businesses that engage in the unauthorized practice of massage therapy and/or are involved in illegal activities which may include prostitution and human trafficking. The implementation of this ordinance better enables the City to proactively screen, monitor and remove businesses that are engaged in illegal activity.

A critical element in screening potential businesses who may seek to conduct nefarious activities under the guise of a practicing massage therapist, is to have a thorough application process that allows for background screening of individuals who may engage in promoting prostitution or human trafficking. When the City’s ordinance took effect last year, all new and existing massage therapy businesses in Johnston were required to submit applications that include: applicant information, business manager information, and credentials of all practicing massage therapists at the location. The application also gathered information about other places the applicant has owned or operated a massage therapy business as well as descriptions of previous licensing suspensions, revocations, denials and arrests for criminal offenses of the applicant, owner, manager, or practicing employee(s).

The intent of the City of Johnston’s massage therapy business licensing procedure is to work collaboratively with the state licensing board to protect the community and the greater profession from illegal activities that are known to occur. These crimes frequently involve international criminal enterprises in which the actors, who were once victims themselves, are easily moved between regions of the country. Johnston’s ordinance provides local law enforcement with the tools necessary to endorse legitimate business practitioners while also shielding the profession from those who attempt to manipulate loopholes created for legitimate businesses.

"We couldn’t be more pleased that the legislature took the action it did to allow cities to proactively deal with these illicit operations that profit from human trafficking and prostitution. The legislation ensures that cities have the tools they need to prevent them from locating in their communities in the first place and to close them down," said Mayor Paula Dierenfeld.

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