Last week, the Watertown Police conducted an investigation into illegal activities at massage parlors in town, and made four prostitution arrests at four locations. The sting was broader than the four massage parlors and involved undercover police officers.
The investigation was a joint one between the WPD and the FBI’s Boston Division Child Exploitation-Human Trafficking Task Force. Police sent undercover officers into the six massage parlors in a coordinated sting on Friday, Nov. 8, said Watertown Police Lt. James O’Connor.
How the Sting Worked
“Four teams went in at the same time and made arrests,” O’Connor said. “We checked more that four (parlors) but at the other establishments (illegal) services were not offered.”
Four women were arrested on charges of offering sexual conduct for a fee, O’Connor said. He added that no male customers were found for being involved in prostitution.
The parlors where arrests were made are: Season Therapy at 12 Belmont St., Sukhothai at 8 Riverside St., Nuu Spa at 2 Mount Auburn St., and Orange Tree, 220 Waverley Ave.
The FBI was involved because it seeks to discover victims of human trafficking, such as juveniles or those brought to the U.S. and forced into prostitution. A detective from the Watertown Police Department is assigned to the FBI’s task force.
If human trafficking victims are found they do not face prostitution charges, but rather meet with counselors to help them. O’Connor said no evidence of human trafficking was discovered in the operation.
Why These Locations?
The massage parlors were chosen for the operation after the Watertown Police received tips from residents.
“The majority were anonymous tips,” O’Connor said. “People reported weird activities, a lot of people coming and going from the place and at odd times, and the curtains are always drawn.”
The sting was approved by Watertown Police Chief Michael Lawn to try to protect the quality of life in the surrounding neighborhoods, according to O’Connor.
“People should feel comfortable and have a great quality of life in the areas where they live in Watertown,” O’Connor said.
He added that not every massage parlor in town has had complaints.
“Places like these give a bad name to legitimate establishments,” O’Connor said.
Was This the First Prostitution Sting?
This was not the first time that such an operation was conducted in Watertown, O’Connor said.
“We do them regularly,” O’Connor said. “We have done it where we have made multiple arrests, and we have done them and had none.”
He noted that at least one of the parlors has had sex for fee arrests in prior stings.
Police cannot close down the parlors for such activities, O’Connor said. That authority falls under the state’s Division of Professional Licensure.