After a raid in August involving suspected human trafficking, Worthington is investigating the idea of regulating massage establishments.
Worthington City Council on Monday, Sept. 10, directed city staff members to research the regulation of massage-related businesses and potentially write legislation.
The decision came less than a month after the Worthington Division of Police and other law-enforcement agencies executed a search warrant Aug. 14 at Asia Good Luck Massage Spa at 2159 W. Dublin-Granville Road.
No charges have been filed but two people suspected to be human-trafficking survivors were taken from the scene.
Worthington officers also were involved in a raid in 2015, when central Ohio agencies raided massage parlors in Powell and Columbus in addition to Amsun Massage at 1000 High St. in Worthington.
City Manager Matt Greeson used that context to frame the introduction of the topic to City Council.
"We know ... that this is an area of concern in not only our community, but in other communities in central Ohio," he said.
The concept would be to create a registry for massage establishments. Those businesses would need to register with the city, be properly zoned, use licensed masseuses, and comply with state law.
The businesses would be barred from allowing any nudity in the establishment or advertising with "sexual or provocative words or images."
Although a potential ordinance would not add any different police-enforcement strategies, police Chief Jerry Strait said, having a database of people in the buildings would aid investigation efforts.
"My personal belief is that these individuals (involved in human trafficking) don't want to be known," he said. "They want to be isolated. I think this would help us."
City officials will wait before making any decisions, however, after council members expressed concerns over potential negative effects to legitimate massage-oriented businesses.
"While there is no argument ... that we should take action to prevent human trafficking, I'm concerned we could cast a net so wide that we also put legitimate businesses out of business," Councilman Scott Myers said.
City Council's instructions included comparing recently enacted laws in Columbus and Westerville and reaching out to local businesses.
No timetable has been set for a report on the research or adoption of an ordinance.