DA seeks to put a stop to illicit massage businesses in Shawnee Co.

13 News at Six
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 5:51 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Putting a stop to human trafficking in Shawnee County continues to be a priority for District Attorney Mike Kagay.

He attended the North American Human Trafficking Conference last week in Las Vegas and said a major topic was investigating and prosecuting illicit massage businesses.

In January, six massage and spa parlors in Shawnee County were busted in a human trafficking operation.

“These massage parlors on the surface look like a regular business, but when you go inside they are really just existing to offer commercial sex transactions,” Kagay continued saying, “It is prostitution, but it is also human trafficking because they obtain these women through false pretenses, through deception.”

At the conference, Kagay said they talked about demand suppression as a way to put a stop to illicit massage businesses.

“What we know about economics is that if you do that, it is demand and supply,” he said. “The demand is overwhelming and so the supply is overwhelming. Human trafficking exists as a structure and as a business model for these traffickers because there is so much money in it.”

Kagay said they were given a statistic that shows the illicit massage business generates $4 billion a year in the United States. However, he said it is not always viewed as human trafficking by the public, which is a problem.

“It is easy for people to say, well that is between two consenting adults, so it is no big deal. I have heard this, people have said this to my face,” Kagay added. “The sad truth is it very likely is human trafficking and the victim that is being forced to provide these services, they are not going to come out and tell their customers that.”

The DA said making a change in the community does not come from arrests or prosecution, it starts with local government.

“The problem with the massage industry is there is not a lot of licensing requirements. There is really no licensing requirements and there is not a lot of regulation there and so it is very open to an illicit market like this to thrive,” he said.

Kagay said he has made City of Topeka leaders aware of the issue and will continue to work with both them and county officials toward a solution.

“To me, it is a simple thing, it is a simple equation,” he continued saying, “We need to create some licensing, create some regulation procedures to make sure those businesses cannot be in our community, to make sure women are not being trafficked in our community in that way, and I just need to continue raising awareness on that issue.”

Kagay said he also met with community stakeholders who were horrified that this was happening within their profession and said they, too, would be on board with added regulations.