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Des Moines OKs massage rules aimed at fighting prostitution

December 19, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Des Moines massage therapy businesses will need to obtain a license or close under a new city ordinance designed to fight prostitution and human trafficking.

The City Council on Monday unanimously approved the measure, following other Iowa cities that have taken similar actions, including Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Coralville and the Des Moines suburbs of Johnston and Urbandale, according to The Des Moines Register .

“This is specifically set out for the bad actors,” Council member Joe Gatto said.

Under the ordinance, which takes effect immediately, businesses will be required to have an Iowa massage therapy license available at all times. If a therapist is unlicensed, a placard will be placed in a noticeable spot that reads in part, “Unsafe to enter; unlicensed massage therapy must cease and is subject to criminal and/or civil penalty.”

No massages can be offered until a state license is obtained.

Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert says police have a list of business suspected of illegal actions that officers will begin checking. Officers also will respond to citizen complaints.

“We needed to find a way to get in the door, to be able to check on these businesses and make sure that those type of things aren’t happening behind the scenes,” Wingert said.

Unlike other cities, Des Moines doesn’t charge a fee to therapists seeking a license. Officials said they didn’t want to place a burden on businesses operating legally.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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