A sting operation directed at local massage parlors operating illegally in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights netted 18 arrests at 17 different locations in the two neighborhoods.
According to Captain Joseph Hayward, commanding officer of the 68th Precinct, the sting was carried out between March 13 and April 15, in conjunction with the New York State Worker’s Compensation Board.
Of the arrests, seven were for prostitution, 10 were for unlicensed practice of massage and one was for criminal negligence. In addition, according to Hayward, Workers Comp issued three stop work orders at different locations, shutting them down pending a court order, including one with a $26,000 fine, and one subpoena was issued to a business that did not have a payroll to show to inspectors.
The locations that were found to have violations, said Hayward, were at 7102 and 7314 13th Avenue; 6701 11th Avenue; 6804, 8011 and 8303 Fifth Avenue; 380, 535 and 552 86th Street; 8515 Fourth Avenue, and 6929 and 8718 Third Avenue. In addition, he told this paper that “After repeated inspections, three other places closed up shop” before any summonses could be issued.
Hayward also said that about 500 flyers on human trafficking were handed out in the vicinity of the massage parlors that were visited as part of the operation, something that Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, said was very important in the overall effort to combat the problem.
Human trafficking is an issue that has concerned the board for some time, stressed Beckmann, adding that the board had “received complaints from area residents” about potential trouble spots. “We provided the information to the precinct as well as other enforcement agencies and Captain Hayward organized a joint inspection of many locations we had reported.”
The sting, she added, appears to have “Helped. We’ve already received positive feedback from residents in some of the areas where people had complained about street level activity and where people were concerned about human trafficking,” she said. “People are reassured knowing the police are investigating their concerns.”
That said, a particular frustration, Beckmann said, is that businesses which operate exclusively as massage parlors are “not permitted as of right” in many of the areas where they set up shop, including all of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.
While, she explained, a business can offer massage along with other services such as hair and nail care, one that offers massage only needs a special permit from the city’s Board of Standards & Appeals in order to “operate a physical culture establishment” anywhere within CB 10.
While hair and nail salons need licenses from the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), no such licensing requirement exists for massage parlors, she added. “A DCA permit would be a good thing,” Beckmann added, “because it would standardize requirements for legitimate businesses.”
Beckmann also mentioned that a workshop on human trafficking was coming up soon in Bay Ridge. Sponsored by the Healing Center, it will take place on Thursday, April 27 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church, 6753 Fourth Avenue. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-238-5158.