State investigation of human trafficking at massage parlors gets unanimous approval from Senate panel

State investigation of human trafficking at massage parlors gets unanimous approval from Senate panel

Jay Webber

TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Jay Webber’s resolution directing the State Commission of Investigation to report on human trafficking activity at New Jersey massage parlors was unanimously cleared from the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee on Thursday.

More than 9,000 illicit massage businesses are operating nationwide. More than 370 massage parlors have advertised sexual services in New Jersey in recent years, according to Polaris, a nonprofit dedicated to combating human trafficking.

“New Jersey has a responsibility to investigate possible illegal activity at businesses disguised as legitimate massage therapy establishments. This investigation has the potential to change hundreds of human trafficking victims’ lives and put an end to illicit massage businesses in New Jersey,” Webber (R-Morris) said.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that exploits victims for sex, labor, or both. Illicit massage businesses generate an estimated $4.5 billion in annual profits.

“Human trafficking is a multibillion-dollar enterprise that steals freedom and dignity for profit. Understanding the pervasiveness of human trafficking at massage parlors is imperative to putting laws in place that will protect victims and stop criminal activity,” Webber added.

The resolution (ACR81) directs the State Commission on Investigation to investigate human trafficking activity at massage establishments with licensed employees. The commission will work with law enforcement officers and the attorney general if evidence of human trafficking is obtained. A report to the governor and Legislature summarizing the findings of the investigation and recommendations to address human trafficking in the massage industry will be issued within two years.

The full Assembly passed the resolution in March 2022. It must receive a vote by the full Senate before going to the governor’s desk.