Suspected sex shops on FM 1960

October 2, 2009 2:06:53 PM PDT
Residents and business owners in northwest Harris County tell us their neighborhoods are being taken over by sexually oriented businesses. Their concern is focused on certain businesses that have opened along a stretch of FM 1960 between Jones and the North Freeway.

Investigators say there are dozens of massage parlors that are operating as sexually oriented businesses all along FM 1960. Now those investigators are using a clever way to crack down.

"I don't think it's appropriate in this neighborhood," said one resident with whom we spoke.

The storefronts are advertised as massage parlors, spas or bathhouses, but they offer something very different inside, say police.

"They usually have a massage table or a sofa in there. Then you got your females that are running around in real skimpy outfits, bikinis, you know, just barely dressed," said one undercover investigator.

The shops are alleged to be fronts for prostitution. We spoke with two men who are undercover investigators for Harris County Precinct 4. Together, they've shut down 15 of these parlors.

"We cite the therapists, the ladies, for not being licensed with the state," said the investigator.

They say about 80 percent are not properly licensed. Many are fined, others arrested.

"Eventually, they get tired of going to jail and just close down the business," an investigator said.

We went inside one of the spas to have a look ourselves. It was dark with drapes covering the windows. We had to ring a doorbell for service. The parlor had a camera on the wall so no one ever came to the door for us.

"There always going to find different ways to hide," said the investigator.

But they don't hide from clients, who we caught walking inside, even during lunch breaks.

"We don't really need that around here. It's a nice neighborhood but it brings the wrong crowd around," said resident Joshua Sofka.

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