Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Boise had a handful of headline-grabbing spa raids last week, but the police department there took a different approach than we've seen in Spokane.
Police raided six massage parlors they believe were fronts for prostitution and arrested six women who allegedly either ran the operations or who were working as prostitutes. In the Spokane-area investigation, police arrested the owners of the spas, but not any women who worked in them. Many in law enforcement say they've begun to focus on people who facilitate prostitution rather than the prostitutes themselves (more not that in our story here).
But Boise police spokesperson Lynn Hightower says her department doesn't have a guiding philosophy on that.
"That is certainly a good community discussion. This is a community issue, and a community quality of life issue," she says. "But the police department is charged with solving problems and enforcing laws. When activity rises to level of causing citizen concerns and complaints, we are obligated to do what we can to enforce the law."
The women arrested are being charged with misdemeanors ranging from prostitution to violating city business licensing code.
The investigation came about after citizen complaints alleging criminal activity. Unlike Airway Heights' 14-month "Operation Red Light," Boise PD spent one day undercover before arresting the suspects.
"Detectives reported when they entered the massage parlor and paid for a massage, they were also offered sex for money," a department press release says.
Hightower says the issue isn't new for the department. Some of the businesses that were busted have been raided before, but the charges haven't been enough to shut them down and they've reopened under new ownership or new names. Still, prostitution isn't something the department deals with much, Hightower says.
"The unit that enforces this also enforces major drug crimes, and, quite honestly, they've got their hands full with that," she says. "[Prostitution] could be out there and could be happening on a daily basis, but officers go where the problems are that attract citizen complaints."