An ordinance passed in March has enabled Mesa to provide greater oversight to the city's massage establishments, city officials told the Council's public safety committee on Monday, but the code needs to be tightened.
The ordinance requires permits for establishment owners, managers and massage therapists. It also regulates interior design and imposes safety requirements.
"It's been effective to have someone on-site who is responsible at the establishment," Mesa collections administrator Tim Meyer told the committee. "Prior to that, it was difficult to find out who was responsible. One officer told me that when they would get there, people would be running out the back. They are not seeing that as much."
Still, officials suspect prostitution is still happening at some establishments. Also, 41 businesses have failed to notify the city of an on-site manager and have been issued a citation or warning of non-compliance.
Assistant police chief John Meza told the committee that he would like to see the ordinance tweaked.
Among the changes: requiring establishments to notify the city of a temporary manager and setting a timetable to hire a new one, requiring managers to carry a government-issued identification, making licenses non-transferrable and clarifying certain fees.
The committee had no objections to city officials proposing code changes to present to the Council in the future.
Before the ordinance passed, there were 123 licensed massage businesses in Mesa. Today, there are 109. Of the 159 manager applications the city has received since March, 19 were denied based on a criminal history and 11 are pending a review.