HOUSTON (KTRK) --Harris County officials are trying to stop a dozen northwest Harris County massage parlors from serving as fronts for prostitution.
The Harris County DA, sheriff, and Attorney's Offices, along with Precinct 1 and Precinct 4, and the Houston Police Department, executed search warrants at 12 massage parlor locations on or near FM 1960. The warrants are the result of a three-month investigation that Harris County DA Devon Anderson started after many citizen complaints.
"They've (the law enforcement agencies) joined us in this fight because going to town hall meetings and talking to citizens, they've received the same complaints we have," Anderson said.
Authorities say undercover officers from different agencies posed as customers at those businesses and on multiple occasions were offered sexual services for a fee. Charges are being filed against at least 14 women.
"Most if not all the women working in these places are not United States citizens," explained District Attorney Devon Anderson. "Some of them have had their passports taken from them and held from them."
The women will not be prosecuted if investigators determine they are human trafficking victims.
The Harris County Attorney's Office is filing lawsuits seeking injunctions in an effort to force those businesses to close.
"I know that dealing with just 12 of these places is kind of a drop in the bucket because there are hundreds of these places operating in Harris County," Anderson said. "One, we gotta start somewhere. And two, this is just the beginning of a concerted effort with Harris County law enforcement to shut these places down for good."
"With the rodeo and the Final Four and different events like the Superbowl next year, we're going to see an uptick in this and that's why we're all working collaboratively to do something about it," said Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen.