“Houston, Texas Case Study: Amending City’s Massage Ordinance” by Oriene Shin, Specialist at Polaris


Case Study Overview

During the second half of 2015, the End Trafficking in Illicit Massage Businesses Initiative focused on local government efforts and began to encourage cities to create or amend certain aspects of local massage establishment ordinances. Concurrently, Houston, Texas established the Special Advisor to the Mayor on Human Trafficking position, which propelled creation of phase 1 of the City’s first comprehensive strategic plan. One objective of the plan is to institutionalize the City’s response which includes making ordinance amendments as necessary. The Houston City Council unanimously passed amendments to the city’s massage establishment ordinance. The amendments expanded the definition of “massage establishments” to include those that advertise or offer a massage or other massage services and also provided law enforcement with greater discretion to enter and inspect massage establishments.

The case study focuses on Houston’s 2015 efforts around amending and strengthening the ability of the Houston Police Department’s Vice and Differential Response Team (HPD DRT) to  enforce city ordinance’s in order to build cases to shut down illicit massage businesses within the city limits of Houston.

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