By Ed Runyan
Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold and members of the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative demonstrated at Courthouse Square on Wednesday night to urge Law Director Greg Hicks and his staff to discuss regulating the city’s 10 massage parlors.
“It is a well-known fact that Asian massage parlors are often fronts for prostitution and often involve human trafficking,” said local resident Isabel Seavey, a member of an MVOC committee.
“Are you aware that the city of Warren has 10 recreational massage parlors, the same number as gas stations? There are 23 recreational massage parlors in the entire state of Ohio. We have 10 of them,” she said.
“We do not know with 100 percent certainty that there is trafficking in these parlors, but they have all the signs,” she continued.
“There are buzzer entry systems. The windows are boarded over or blacked out. They are open from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. on weekdays and 24 hours on weekends. They do not allow entry to women.”
When Hicks and his staff were presented with seven suggested additions to Warren’s massage-parlor regulations, they dismissed the five most important ones, and they have refused to discuss the reasons why, said Jodi Macina of Warren.
Among the recommendations were prohibiting operations between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. and requiring each therapist to show documentation that she or he has completed at least 100 hours of training from a certified massage association.
“Warren has the unwanted distinction of being a massage-parlor haven and praised by many on sex tourism websites,” she said.
At a meeting in June, Hicks said some of the MVOC’s suggestions can’t be implemented because it’s unconstitutional to write laws to shut down a legal business.
If the business isn’t operating in a legal manner, it’s up to the police to handle it, Hicks said.
Macina and other speakers said Lorain’s ordinance contains the seven suggestions, and they’ve been in effect since 1979. Niles recently passed an ordinance containing all of the recommendations, speakers said.
Saffold said this will not be the last rally on the issue. “We’re going to keep rallying, keep protesting until this comes to an end,” she said.
About 40 people attended Wednesday’s rally.