Approach to prostitution in Montgomery County is changing

Vice detectives in Montgomery County don’t find women walking the streets selling sex. They have to dig deeper to combat prostitution and human trafficking.

The vice unit arrested three owners and operators of four massage parlors and spas in Rockville allegedly offering sexual favors to their clients. A fourth man who runs a fifth business also has been charged, but has eluded capture, police said. The arrests illustrate the need for vigilance on the part of vice detectives, said county vice Detective Thomas Stack.

“There’s a house fee for $60 or $80 and then, when [the clients] go into the back, they actually negotiate another price with the workers themselves,” Stack said of a common scheme employed by operators of massage parlors that offer sex.

Because the owners do not negotiate the sex, they often deny knowledge of the crime when approached by police, Stack said. The women working for the business receive most of their payment from “tips” generated by sex, he said.

In the Rockville busts, detectives began by approaching men leaving the businesses and asking them what services they paid for. The men who cooperated were not identified and no charges were made because detectives intend to use them as witnesses against the establishments, Stack said.

“In those cases our primary targets were the actual businesses themselves, so we were using the johns as a means to an end,” Stack said. “Generally, as far as prosecution is concerned, charging the johns as co-defendants in the case isn’t as beneficial as having them testify against the actual [business] itself.”

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