Area Leaders Want To Rid Central Iowa of Illegitimate ‘Massage Businesses’

DES MOINES, Iowa -- "It almost seems like we can push them around from community to community," said Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert. "But, once we all get on the same page and get something in place, we're just gonna rid them of Central Iowa, which is the end goal."

Community leaders say one of their goals is to create uniformity across city ordinances, which would give police departments leverage. Police say this method allows them to be proactive in targeting businesses that operate outside of the boundaries of the law. The old way of combating this problem involved having undercover officers go in, pay for services, and try to get something other than a massage.

"It was very time consuming," said Clive Police Chief Michael Venema. "It was very expensive and a lot of times, these illegitimate businesses are not going to perform an illegal act until they're very comfortable with a customer who`s come multiple times."

Police say these undercover stings presented lots of challenges and moral complications, which made it difficult to build a case.

"Our prosecutor does not like a sex act to actually occur to an undercover officer, for those charges to be filed," said Chief Venema.

Cassie Sampson, Spa Owner of East Village Spa, is a licensed massage therapist who is well aware of this problem. However, Sampson also worries about the unintended consequences of ordinances that may be too restrictive.

"I hate to see us impose fees and restrictions in an industry where women have been very successful," said Sampson. "Because it doesn't look good and it makes Iowa even less hospitable able for women who are business owners."

City leaders say they're trying to strike a balance between giving police the tools they need to solve the problem, and minimizing the burdens they put on legitimate massage businesses.