Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and County Council Chairperson Jon Weinstein have filed local legislation to assist the Howard County Police Department with investigating massage parlors suspected of being fronts for prostitution and human trafficking. This legislation is the second step in the process started last year when Kittleman asked Howard County’s General Assembly Delegation to introduce enabling legislation to allow the county to pursue this bill.
“Del. Bob Flanagan helped us greatly by sponsoring state legislation, which passed last year and went into effect Oct. 1,” said Kittleman. “With state enabling legislation in place, we can file the local legislation that will allow our police officers to crack down on illegal establishments.”
The legislation, if passed, will better enable police to access massage establishments and assist victims who may be in need of help. Currently, police do not have the authority to check on an illegitimate establishment without a state licensing inspector, even if there are numerous complaints or obvious ads for sexual activity posted online. The legislation, if passed, would allow checks by police of suspicious massage establishments under specific circumstances. The legislation would have no adverse effect on legitimate spas and massage establishments using licensed massage practitioners.
In addition to the massage parlor legislation, other actions taken by Kittleman include the following.
- Creating a specially designated fund with assets seized through the arrest of criminals involved with these crimes which would be used to assist victims and law enforcement efforts.
- Adding a second full-time undercover police officer to work exclusively on human trafficking investigations. In 2016, 25 human trafficking investigations were conducted, resulting in 10 arrests and 25 victims being assisted.
- Establishing in the coming weeks a Human Trafficking Prevention Coordinating Council to review and prioritize recommendations of the 2014 Human Trafficking Task Force Report and advise the county executive on the effective methods and organizational structure to permanently coordinate and sustain human trafficking prevention efforts in the county.