Making life harder for legitimate masseurs is no way to fight crime - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Making life harder for legitimate masseurs is no way to fight crime

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Posted: Saturday, May 17, 2003 1:39 am | Updated: 1:23 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Whenever people are struck with some sort of moral outrage, often their all-too-automatic reaction is to seek more government. More often than not, however, additional regulation provides temporary security for some, no change in the status quo for most and a loss of precious liberty for others.

That is what some downtown Scottsdale merchants want the city to do. They want tougher restrictions on massage therapists, if not their moving out of Scottsdale entirely, because the merchants fear prostitution. To them, the very presence of massage businesses — legitimate or not, it seems — cheapens the city’s image into one of “Smutsdale.”

And yet Scottsdale police say that the vast majority of such businesses are quite legitimate and legal; however, they, too, seek more teeth in local laws to be able to more easily crack down on those that aren’t.

Preferring a certain image for a city should be insufficient for it to use the law to force a property owner what legally to do or not do with his or her land.

This is particularly so when, as in this case, the land is zoned to allow legitimate massage businesses.

Several such businesses have opened in and around downtown; the Tribune reported Sunday that the number of Scottsdale licensed massage facilities has increased from 128 in December to 143 today, employing about 1,500 licensed therapists.

Given the local police’s view that prostitution and other illegal conduct is arising out of relatively few massage outlets, then it would be akin to swatting a fly with a sledge hammer for the City Council to enact the requested new regulations.

As proposed, they would run the gamut from merely bothersome to intrusive to financially crippling, including mandatory annual fingerprinting, creating a “Scottsdale Board of Massage Examiners” to administer massage competency tests, quintupling license fees and limiting hours of operation.

Licensed massage therapists already must complete 500 hours of training before receiving their state licenses. There is nothing other than unjustifiable alarm over too little illegal conduct to justify so many new hoops for them to jump through.

Besides — and speaking of Scottsdale’s image to tourists — we suspect illegal massage parlors aren’t the cause of most prostitution here anyway. We’re sure much of the prostitution money changing hands in Scottsdale involves a high-priced call-girl trade that targets well-heeled resort guests. About this, though, it seems the townsfolk aren’t hot for more regulation.

Instead of more government, police should enforce existing laws by infiltrating suspected illegal operations with undercover officers who could shut down criminal shops and let that vast majority of legal, thriving, taxpaying businesses the freedom to earn their way our system of law and justice guarantees.

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