JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – More than 50 people showed up at the April 22 Johns Creek City Council meeting to ask the city to do something about the growing number of massage parlors in the city, which they say are just fronts for sex-for-hire shops. Those who stayed after the council meeting got a frank discussion led by the city manager, city attorney and police chief. That message was that there is sex for hire going on in many of these parlors and there is not a lot the city can do to discourage it. During citizen comment, Duane Armstrong said darkly lit massage parlors have sprung up along Medlock Bridge Road. Websites advertising their services are “blatant and in your face,” he said. These establishments are offering sex for sale. He said he found eight parlors in one 3- to 4-mile area. “Client reviews” leave no doubt as to what transpires inside, he said. Larry Hamlin rose to say that he was concerned that such parlors will affect the city’s brand and affect property values. Dr. Glenda Brown said while talking to a teenage patient, he told her how students would go to these places for “massages.” “Our teenagers should not be exposed to this,” she said. The residents were told while the City Council does not respond at that meeting to public comment, this time they would allow City Manager John Kachmar to explain after the meeting Johns Creek’s attempts to rid the city of such businesses and why they have been largely unsuccessful. Some 40 or so hung around to hear what Kachmar, City Attorney Bill Riley and Police Chief Ed Densmore had to say. The news was not encouraging. There are 12 massage parlors operating in the city. While some are lawfully run businesses, others are well-organized sex shops. Densmore explained that his officers can make undercover arrests of the girls – and have made seven or eight arrests. But it is time-consuming and takes manpower. The undercover officer must have corroboration so he wears a wire to record what is said. Other officers nearby are listening and are also necessary for security. “But these people have been doing this a long time. Often nothing happens the first time or second. They want to build a relationship before anything happens,” Densmore said. Kachmar said even making these cases doesn’t do much good. Usually the girl is bonded out and merely pays a fine. She may be sent to another house in another county or another state. And that does nothing to shut down the business. Riley told residents the only thing that deters the operators is to arrest the madam or the owner on a license violation. That is a local charge, and they can be given time for that. Riley explained the arrests of the prostitutes do not stop the business, and these women are the biggest victims in the crime already. The law is such that if a case is made against the madam or owner on sex charges, it will be tried in Fulton County court and will end in a fine. “This is a misdemeanor, and Fulton County does not have room in its jails for misdemeanor crimes,” Riley said. Most of the laws work in the owners’ favor. As long as they maintain the staff’s licenses and can produce logs of their client services, there is not a lot the city can do, said Kachmar. But he said that does not mean the city is giving up. They will continue to try to go after the owners and the madams. They will likely leave if they spend real time in jail and face the prospect of more. But that is hard to do. “The only really effective way is to discourage the client side of the equation,” Kachmar said. If the men go away, then the business goes away. But when residents asked how they could do that, the city officers did not have much advice. Demonstrations could be done in the public right of way, but unless they were sustained over a long period, it would not keep the men away. Residents left, grateful that the police and city were trying to do something. They also are looking at ways they can get involved in discouraging the trade. Resident Kathy Bogardus said she already knew there was an issue. “But I feel like we can do something. But citizens have to get involved and protect our city,” she said.
This article was published in the Johns Creek Herald April 25, 2013 edition
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