NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Nineteen people have been arrested and a dozen Brooklyn massage parlors have been closed in a prostitution crackdown, authorities said.
The massage parlors and day spas advertised sex services on websites like Craigslist, according to the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes.
‘’We are committed to stopping the illegal activities of these criminal locations and to restoring confidence and safety to the communities involved,” Hynes said in a statement. “I will continue to fight against promoting prostitution, as well as the crimes that flow from these activities.”
Complaints from residents about suspicious and disruptive activities prompted the yearlong undercover operation in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.
“It seemed almost overnight that our bucolic neighborhoods of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights were becoming more alike the old 42nd Street than the Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights that we all know and love and grew up in. And that was just unacceptable,” City Councilman Vincent Gentile said.
Community Board 10 Chairman Joanne Seminara said many of the establishments were concealed with dark curtains and open late into the night. She added that neighbors grew suspicious when a number of massage parlors opened in a short time period.
“Complaints included on-street solicitation of people passing by these establishments,” Seminara said.
“This was more than a vice takedown,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said in a statement. “This was about protecting neighborhood quality of life.”
Authorities are looking into whether the women working at the massage parlors were victims of human trafficking.
“The promoters are often using vulnerable young women as a means to make huge profits for themselves,” said Hynes.
Hynes said the three owners and 16 employees at unrelated establishments were arrested.
“I hope that these arrests will send a message not only to the communities of Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge, but throughout Brooklyn, that I share their concerns regarding these purported ‘day spas’ and ‘massage therapists’ and we will not tolerate illicit operations that exploit women and blight neighborhoods,” Hynes said.
A number of city agencies were involved in the investigation.
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