DENVER, Colo. (KDVR) – Six days ago, prosecutors arrested three people accused of using massage parlors for human trafficking, pimping, and money laundering.

Now, the city of Denver is coming up with a new way to crack down on human trafficking.

“We have put a lot of focus and investigations into this area of combating human trafficking that occurs in massage businesses,” Denver’s Human Trafficking Unit’s Sgt. Aaron Kafer said. 

Sgt. Kafer supervises DPD’s human trafficking unit and based on what investigators are seeing, learning and finding, they supported and collaborated on the idea of Denver regulating massage businesses with licenses.

“There really was no accountability for the businesses as far as being able to continue to operate, even though they may have had illegal activities taking place there in the past,” Denver Department of Excise and Licenses’ Eric Escudero said. “Well, those days are over with the massage businesses licenses.” 

Starting July 1, massage businesses in the city and county of Denver are going to have to have this new license. Part of the process of being licensed includes passing inspections. 

“We’ve seen illicit massage businesses where workers work long hours, sometimes from eight in the morning until midnight, and actually reside at the business location,” Sgt. Kafer said. “We’ve seen makeshift kitchens, apartment type dwellings built inside of a commercial building with electrical and fire hazards and potentially other environmental health hazards. This license will give the city that additional regulatory control and ability to go in and actually make sure that these spaces are safe for the visiting public.”

The application process also involves background checks for the owners applying. Businesses can be denied altogether if they had a felony conviction within five years.

Additionally, if a massage business gets approved and is caught operating illegally, the owners could have their license revoked and have to close up shop in the city and county.

“It’s really going to bring an extra level of public safety to this industry, which is mostly a good industry,” Escudero said. “It’s really just to root out the unfortunate businesses that are lawbreakers and who have been host to human trafficking.”

This will now be the first time the city is requiring the business itself to be licensed and held accountable. Businesses can start applying online in mid-May.

The state currently requires massage therapists themselves to have licenses.