Wauconda hopes new rules stop illegal activity at massage businesses
In an effort targeting prostitution and other criminal behavior, masseuses and masseurs now must get local and state massage licenses to operate in Wauconda.
Massage therapists also must avoid touching patrons' genitals, and those areas must be covered by nontransparent towels, cloths or garments if a therapist or other employee is present, among other new restrictions.
Violations could result in the suspension or revocation of a business license.
Wauconda trustees unanimously approved the regulations Tuesday night. The local license will cost $50 and will require annual renewal, officials decided.
An Illinois massage therapy license costs $175 and must be renewed every two years.
Ten businesses in Wauconda offer massages, Police Chief David Wermes said. While most are legitimate businesses, police have received complaints about possible illegal activity at a few of them.
"People notice these things ... the sketchy ones versus the nice ones," Trustee Rich Morino said.
As a result of the complaints, Wauconda police officers working undercover with the Lake County Gang Task Force have made six prostitution-related arrests in the last two years, Wermes said.
The rules were created to discourage businesses from promoting illegal activity. Although prostitution is illegal in Illinois, the ordinance gives the village greater authority to crack down on such operations, Village Administrator Kevin Timony said.
But officials also wanted to avoid being unfair to legitimate massage therapists.
Wauconda officials reviewed similar ordinances in Barrington, Grayslake, Island Lake and other communities when crafting the policy.
"I believe we struck a good balance," Trustee Tim Howe said.
Morino said he hopes the ordinance prevents human trafficking in Wauconda.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, illicit massage parlors are the top venue for sex trafficking in the U.S.
Illinois ranks 11th on the center's nationwide state-by-state list of human trafficking cases with 193 reports in 2017.