Bakersfield City attorneys and the Bakersfield Police Department are hoping to crack down on prostitution at massage businesses with a new proposal.
The proposal, which will have its first hearing at the Bakersfield City Council on June 7, would require massage therapists to be certified by the state; currently, they can get certified by the city of Bakersfield, a process that is reportedly easier and more relaxed.
Deputy City Attorney Richard Iger says in a traditional year, there are roughly 20 arrests at massage businesses for crimes that often include soliciting prostitution. So far in 2017, there's already been 15.
The new proposal would come down harder on massage businesses found guilty of soliciting prostitution by barring the business from reopening until after a year; currently, the business could simply be reopened under someone else's name.
This comes as welcome news for reputable massage businesses, like the one Brian Holloway runs.
"Being certified keeps us on the right side of the law," Holloway said. "It makes sure we are doing everything we can to keep human beings from being trafficked as well."
At his office in Bakersfield, Holloway spoke about how busts at other businesses give the entire field a bad name.
"These sub industries that aren't monitored properly...they do affect us because they give us a bad name, and we work really hard to prevent that," Holloway said.
Holloway and another massage therapist told 23 ABC that they receive a few calls a year that are suggestive; ones they believe would eventually ask for sexual acts.
"There are individuals out there who seek us out for that behavior," Holloway said, also saying that he's been asked about his appearance over the phone and has been approached at his home.
"And we have to weed that out a lot...a lot."
Holloway felt the new proposal is a step in the right direction; he did mention that it could create some issues for legitimate massage businesses who are not yet certified with the state. He also said he feels that there should be a crackdown on the individuals who are asking for the services.
Theoretically, the proposal would take effect 30 days after being passed. That would happen at its second hearing before the Bakersfield City Council, sometime in June.