COLORADO SPRINGS – Colorado Springs Police established its Human Trafficking Unit five years ago to devote resources to the problem in El Paso and Teller County.
Even though they’ve seen massage parlors as a source of human trafficking for years, they believe the arrest of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s arrest helped bring it to the public’s attention.
“It took someone like Robert Kraft to get caught in that to bring this to the public’s awareness,” said Lieutenant Mark Comte, who helps oversee the Human Trafficking Unit.
He’s used to keeping a close eye on massage parlors.
“One of our first investigations of massage parlors, we uncovered a ring to where girls were being transported around a region to various locations,” Comte reflected.
That sting led to three arrests.
“[We] took out a primary, let’s say supply source for these girls when they come into the United States or when they come into Colorado,” he explained.
“But there’s always somebody there to take over.”
To keep up, CSPD runs an audit on parlors at least twice a month, making sure they have appropriate licenses.
They’re also seeing what they can learn from the sting operation in Florida.
“Now we take a look at our operations,” Comte said.
“‘Is there something we can do to be more successful in our investigations?'”
One method that has proven successful in reducing crime is publishing the names of those convicted of these types of crimes.
“I think that’s what they’re trying to do with Kraft in Florida,” Comte hypothesized.
“They’re trying to publicly put these people out there so others would say ‘Whoa, I’m not gonna do it anymore. It’s not worth my family finding out or getting shamed in public.'”
Kraft has pleaded not guilty to solicitation of prostitution.
Here are some red flags to look out for when it comes to massage parlors.
– If the business posts racy ads promoting young women
– If employees aren’t wearing clinical attire
– If no licenses are displayed
For next-door business owners:
– If you only see male customers
– If you see girls spending the night
– If you see groceries brought inside for cooking
Cooking and other home-like activities inside the parlor can be indications the girls are living there and they’re being trafficked.