Two Chilliwack massage parlors suspected of offering sexual services to customers face possible suspension of business licences and six arrests have been made as the RCMP continue a push to end prostitution here.
“Prostitution, whether it occurs out in the open or under the pretense of a legitimate business, is not only a significant social issue because of the high risk nature of the trade, it is also a priority at a national level for police because of potential links to organized crime,” Sgt. Steve McLeod, head of the RCMP’s crime reduction unit, said in a news release Wednesday.
Police said a search warrant executed Jan. 12 at a business in the 8300-block Young Road resulted in the arrest of three females and one male customer, a 48-year-old woman from Langley, a 44-year-old woman from Coquitlam, a 70-year-old woman from the Lower Mainland area, and a 41-year-old man from Chilliwack. All were released from custody on promises to return to court in April.
A second search Jan. 19 of a business in the 9200-block Young Road resulted in the arrest of a 38-year-old “female worker,” police said, a Hong Kong woman in Canada on a visitors visa, and a 38-year-old “male customer” from Saskatchewan. They were also released from custody on promises to return to court.
McLeod said there is no indication at this point that the two business are linked to each other, or connected to organized crime or human trafficking.
“But investigators continue the process to rule that out conclusively,” he added.
The names of the two businesses and the six people detained were not released.
Last spring in Chilliwack, street-level prostitutes and their customers were targeted by police resulting in a “significant decline” in the number of hookers seen in the downtown area, police said.
Police said the second phase of that enforcement effort saw the two businesses searched after “a thorough investigation revealed that local businesses were operating under the umbrella of providing massage services, but were suspected of offering sexual services to their customers.”
Police said the city has taken steps to have the business licences from both businesses suspended, but city staff were not immediately available to confirm.
In October, 2011, the RCMP arrested 30 sex trade workers and suspected johns in the city’s downtown core.
McLeod said police wanted to show the community that they are listening to local concerns and “this latest project is just one of the many ways we are doing that.”