In response to recent prostitution arrests made at local massage parlors, the village of Oswego is considering creating an ordinance to help regulate, license and monitor parlors coming into town.
“Over the last couple of months, we received notification from concerned citizens as it relates to massage parlors in the village and Kendall County jurisdiction,” Oswego Police Chief Jeff Burgner told village board members during a recent meeting. He noted that websites and advertisements the parlors were using raised alarms and an investigation began.
Officers looked into the claims, which ended in the arrests of several women on both prostitution and aiding and abetting unlicensed massage charges at three Oswego and Kendall County locations.
At a Nov. 28 Committee of the Whole meeting, Burgner asked for the board’s direction regarding ways to prevent similar crimes from happening in the future.
He said police looked into ordinances which regulate massage businesses in nearby towns, and suggested that Oswego could create something similar. Creating a licensing process, he said, is a viable option.
This licensing process could allow for a background investigation to be conducted prior to approval for the business owner as well as individuals conducting massages. The ordinance also could allow for inspections to be conducted ensuring the business is in compliance with village code as well as state laws, or set a dress code for the individuals conducting the massages.
Burgner said the process of licensing would be similar to that required by pawn shop owners and businesses with liquor licenses. Exemptions could include those providing massages at hospitals or nursing homes, as athletic trainers, or at barber shops.
There could also be an exception which grandfathers in current businesses operating in the village.
“We want to enforce criminal violations, because that’s what police do, but we have to balance that with providing a business-friendly approach and make sure we’re working with legitimate businesses and not penalizing them because a few businesses in town aren’t doing it the right way,” Burgner said.
He noted that while a licensing process would require additional staff time, the benefits of having a process in place would outweigh the extra work involved.
“I can’t imagine a legitimate business taking issue with us trying to deal with businesses that aren’t [legitimate],” Village President Gail Johnson said. “I was surprised we didn’t have an ordinance [currently].”
Burgner said Oswego hasn’t seen an issue pertaining to illegal massage and prostitution until recently.
“It’s not a good business for healthy communities,” Johnson said. “We might not be able to completely prevent it, but if we have an ordinance in place we could enforce the rules. We can put some pieces into play.”
An ordinance will be drafted and be brought before the board at a later date.