Harris County to try new tactic in fight against illegal sexually oriented businesses

November 30, 2012 6:42:55 AM PST
After using lawsuits and undercover stings to crack down on illegal activity at sexually oriented businesses, Harris County is about to try something new.

Massage, tea rooms and spas are how they've often advertised along FM 1960, west of Interstate 45, but come December, those businesses will find themselves under even more scrutiny.

The signs are not hard to miss.

"You see them all the way up and down 1960, you see the little sign that says spa this and that," store manager Thomas Collier said.

Collier has run a business in the FM 1960, northwest Houston area for more than five years, and even works near a previous illegal massage parlor bust that took place a few months ago.

"It brings a different element that you don't really want in the neighborhood. You've got crime up and down the streets that are associated with it -- drugs, prostitutes and everything else. It's just not a good deal," he said.

In 2011, state legislation was passed forming a special task force. Any unlicensed sexually oriented business will have 60 days to comply with new regulations, including a legal license and name tags for employees.

And the Harris County Sheriff's Office will start cracking down in December, checking to see who is in compliance.

"They need to be working to take care of that now because if they are not, then what they can expect, and what the community should expect, is places to be shut down," Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia said.

At least one store manager is ready to see more law enforcement checking in on the neon signs.

"At least make their presence known. I mean if they are not checking them out, they are going to do whatever they want," Collier said.

During that grace period, businesses found to be unlicensed have been given a warning by law enforcement. That all comes to an end in December.


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