Essex Junction Cracks Down on Sex Trafficking

Published 02/11 2014 11:40PM

Updated 02/12 2014 01:43AM

ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt.- In the past decade, the Village of Essex Junction has closed down two massage parlors due to involvement in human trafficking.  Now, the village is looking to crack down on the crime.  It's the first place to do this in Vermont.

On Tuesday night, the board of trustees discussed a new proposal to make it tougher for massage-based businesses to open in the village.  The proposal says all massage business owners would go through a strict process to obtain a permit before opening their location.

"The purpose of it is to give enough hoops to jump through that if you're not a legitimate business owner, you're not going to bother with it," says Elaine Sopchak, a board of trustee member.

Massage business owners would need to have background checks and fingerprints taken in order to get the permit.  They also would have to provide information about each employee working for them.  The proposal further mandates:

-No barricades on the business's windows.
-No locks on the doors where massages are given.
-No business hours between 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
-Entrances must be on a public street.

In order to reduce the number of human trafficking cases in Vermont, supporters say the proposal is essential.

"Somewhere around 14.5 to 17.5 thousand people are brought into the U.S. each year," says Edith Klimoski of Give Way to Freedom.

Tuesday's meeting gave law enforcement a chance to voice their concerns about the new potential law and about bringing offenders to justice.  Police Chief Brad Larose says it can be difficult to find victims.

"Prosecuting owners is very difficult when you don't have victims," says Larose.

Despite, concerns, Larose says requiring a permit could be beneficial to helping law enforcement in the long run.

"It's gathering information up front to help us pursue a criminal case," says Larose.

The Board of Trustees will send the proposal to their lawyers for further review.  In will then go to the planning commission.


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