Bill turning tables on illegal activity at massage parlors advances

Bill turning tables on illegal activity at massage parlors advances

Serena DiMaso

TRENTON, N.J. – Massage parlors have long been associated with illegal sexual activity. It is their connection to human trafficking and the sex trade that fuels legislation approved by the Assembly Homeland Security Committee today.

Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso sponsors the bill (A3913) expanding oversite and holding operators accountable for activities that take place there.

“The massage industry is a hotbed of human trafficking,” said DiMaso (R-Monmouth). “This bill reins in an out-of-control industry. Changing the rules will protect trafficking victims. We will shut down facilities profiting from illegal activities.”

The Star-Ledger published a story last January that found 373 massage parlors advertised sexual services in the state. The figure was attributed to a report by the Polaris Project, a nonprofit that advocates for an end to human trafficking.

“This is going on right under our noses,” said DiMaso. “When police raid a facility, the workers, often trafficking victims, are arrested while the operators shut the doors and disappear, only to do the same thing later at another location. This legislation prevents that from happening.”

DiMaso’s bill requires the state to publish an annual list of massage establishments registered in the state, and makes operating an unregistered facility a fourth degree crime. It limits operating hours, requires doors to remain unlocked while in operation, and allows unannounced inspections by the state Board of Massage and Bodywork.

It also prohibits use of a facility for housing.