COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A new development in our investigation into southern Colorado Asian spas: Colorado Springs City Council met Monday to discuss a law passed in Aurora that allowed the city to shut down nearly all of its illicit spas. Stephanie Sierra continues her investigation that we started in May.
Following our coverage, the Colorado Springs is making steps to follow Aurora's lead in an effort to shut down these illicit spas. But, as our news partners KUSA in Denver discovered, Aurora's legislation didn't entirely eliminate the problem -- it simply placed the burden elsewhere. We could soon see this trend in El Paso County.
The Aurora legislation shut down 19 illicit spas in the city within just over a year.
"It became so bad, we had to take action," said Aurora City Councilman Charlie Richardson, one of the brains behind this ordinance that tightened regulation of massage parlors back in 2018.
The rules of the ordinance did what Aurora city leaders intended it to do: shut down the illegal activity. But the problem didn't go very far.
As our news partners in Denver discovered, the spas just reopened next door in Denver's city limits where the rules restricting illegal activity are more lax.
"Denver doesn't have a lot of regulation for massage parlors," said Trevor Vaughn, with Aurora's Tax and Licensing division. "A big part of Denver's issue is there's not a pre-screening of the business before they get a license. Additionally, when they see things that are signs of illicit massage businesses they don't violate Denver's ordinance."
We're seeing the same problems in Colorado Springs, which is why our team has urged our city council to take action.
"Where is this on your priority list?" Stephanie Sierra asked City Council President Richard Skorman.
"It's a big priority, we've all been watching the local coverage you've been doing and it is more of an issue than we realized, so we want to see what options are out there," said Skorman.
As the city moves forward with legislation, we can only expect that spas forced out of the city limits will move to the county, as we see happening in Denver.
El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller says he's ready to tackle this problem.
"This shouldn't be a circumstance where we're playing Whack-a-mole, where we knock it down in one place and it opens up some place else," said Waller. "We got to get at the root of the problem, we have to attack this from a criminal justice perspective."
Waller intends to look into how we can prosecute these criminal enterprises to the fullest extent of the law.
Editor's note for context: According to RubMaps, there were 30 illicit spas in Aurora two years ago. Now, 19 of them are shut down. Eight are reported as 'non-erotic.' Only three reported as 'erotic' remain.