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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Dunn Proposes More Rigorous Oversight Of Massage Parlors

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn

On Thursday, King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn introduced legislation that would create a workgroup to make recommendations on how King County regulations could be updated to help prevent instances of human trafficking at massage parlors.

This latest move comes after last week’s raid of a Renton massage parlor, where a woman was held against her will and forced to perform sexual services for clients. After the victim managed to escape and call 911, Renton SWAT was called in, and a 39-year-old woman was arrested on charges of attempting to promote prostitution and unlawful imprisonment.

“This case highlights the fact that human trafficking often occurs in plain sight and goes undetected without intervention,” Dunn said. “So much about our understanding of the nature of human trafficking has evolved in recent years, so it could be very fruitful to take a look at King County’s decades-old regulations and look for ways that they can be used more effectively to prevent instances of trafficking.”

The areas of King County code that regulate massage parlors haven’t been substantially reviewed or updated since they were originally adopted in 1987. A 2013 Report and Recommendations on Human Trafficking Response performed by the King County Sheriff’s Office estimated that there were 84 massage parlors acting as hubs for human trafficking at that time. It is unknown how many are operating today.

The workgroup would include representatives from the King County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Local Services, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Public Health – Seattle & King County, cities of King County, and nonprofits working in the realm of human trafficking. Their work would focus on evaluating responses to human trafficking in King County; evaluating existing King County codes that relate to human trafficking, including those that regulate to massage parlor regulations and any other businesses associated with high risks of human trafficking; and a comprehensive review of the permitting status of businesses that might lend themselves to human trafficking, including unlicensed massage parlors. The resulting report and recommendations would be due to the King County Council within 90 days of passage.

Dunn’s legislation will be heard in the Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee in the coming weeks.

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