The clock is ticking for local massage parlors to tighten restrictions on who can work in certain parts of their stores.
Peoria City Council passed an ordinance in April requiring anyone working in the bodywork section of parlors to be at least 18 years old. The rule change also impacts acupuncturists.
The Council approved a 90-day grace period so there are around 45 days left.
Local leaders say it will help curb human trafficking in Peoria and are supportive of the measure.
Center for Prevention of Abuse Executive Director Carol Merna and her team helped direct the ordinance.
“At last count there were about 18 illicit massage parlors in Peoria,” Merna said.
A Peoria Police spokesperson said officers will enforce the ordinance with regular check-ins, treating parlors similarly to other businesses.
“We get out and do business checks with local retailers. It’s not all that different,” Public Information Officer Amy Dotson said. “It gives us operational guidelines.”
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children believes that one in six children that are missing are victims of human trafficking, Merna continued.
“When we had these conversations with the city, we made it very clear we cared about children, because one and four victims of human trafficking are children,” Merna said. “We are very excited that the City of Peoria is taking leadership in this way.”
Each of the local leaders who spoke with 1470 & 100.3 WMBD said they are eager to see the local parlors abide by the new ordinance.
Councilman Eric Turner cast the only “no” vote among City Council members. He believed enforcement would be difficult with limited staff.
Polaris (formerly the Polaris Project) expressed praise for the City of Peoria in an email. Polaris is a non-governmental agency that works to fight modern-day slavery and human trafficking.
Apart from requiring anyone working bodies to be 18, the ordinance requires all parlors to have transparent windows, prohibit the doors to be locked during business hours and prohibit anyone from living in the parlors or staying there overnight.
HERE is a full copy of the ordinance.
“We are very excited that the city of Peoria is taking leadership in this way,” Merna said. “When people are exploited in human trafficking we know that a number of other crimes come for that.”
Merna says it’s challenging to pinpoint the origin of most of the human trafficking in the area, but she speculates many of the victims “are from other cultures.”
If you want to learn more about the Center for Prevention of Abuse and its work to prevent human trafficking, visit HERE.