DENVER – Friday, July 1 was the deadline for Denver massage therapy businesses to get a new type of business license through the City and County of Denver.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock signed the newly required license into law last year, and city leaders hope the license will be an additional tool for the Denver Police Department to fight human trafficking at illicit massage businesses.
“In general, when we would investigate these illicit massage businesses, often times we found that there were people, primarily females, that were being forced into human trafficking,” Denver Police Department Division Chief of Investigations Joe Montoya said.
Montoya says it has been difficult to find those responsible because the businesses are subject to few regulations.
“Those are complex investigations. They require a lot of cooperation, and a lot of times, we couldn’t even identify who the actual business owners were,” Montoya said.
Since 2019, DPD has encountered 25 potential sex trafficking victims linked to massage businesses. DPD has charged 12 people with felonies related to human trafficking.
Denver Department of Excise and Licenses Spokesperson Eric Escudero says so far, just 13 massage therapy businesses have obtained the required license.
“Our interest is not in going out right away and issuing tickets for notice of violation or anything like that. It's still just trying to give them some time to understand this license is a requirement,” Escudero said.
There are a few exemptions to the new law, including individual massage therapists, certain types of sports medicine facilities and medical offices.
To get the license, establishments will be subject to inspections by the Department of Excise and Licenses, Denver Fire Department, and Denver Police Department.