Frederick County Executive Unveils Legislation To Curb Human Trafficking

It tightens regulations against bodyworks establishments.

County Executive Jessica Fitzwater unveils new legislation to combat human trafficking. (March 28, 2024)

Frederick, Md (KM) Legislation to tighten current zoning laws when it comes  to bodyworks businesses in Frederick County was introduced Thursday morning by County Executive Jessica Fitzwater. During her public information briefing, Fitzwater said this measure will crack down on illicit activities which sometimes take place at these bodyworks establishments, such as massage parlors.

“This bill will require bodyworks establishments to provide information about their business, including all the state regulated and required licenses to our county zoning administrator,” she says. In addition to submitting licenses,  they must also include a list of current employees.

Along with that, the legislation allows for periodic inspection by the County’s zoning administrator. People would not be allowed to live at these establishments, and anyone instructing unlicensed employees must maintain a higher education certificate.

“This bill will not require these businesses to obtain any additional licenses beyond what is required by the State of Maryland,” Fitzwater said. “And the zoning changes do not add any fees or licensing requirements to existing businesses that already have zoning approval.”

Fitzwater says she will introduce this bill to the County Council in the coming days.

She says this legislation is designed to go after bodyworks businesses that also engage in human trafficking.

Lindsay Carpenter, the Chief off the Special Victims Unit of the State’s Attorney’s Office, says it can be difficult shutting down these businesses which are involved in human trafficking. “Illicit massage parlors are particularly difficult criminal organization to dismantle. They’re widespread, multi-layered and sophisticated. They’re laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars while trafficking vulnerable individuals,” she said.

But Carpenter says this legislation will make a difference in shutting down these businesses. “We are thankful to the County Executive for her leadership in promoting this legislation that not only will provide an additional tool to dismantle these criminal organizations, but will also deter these criminal organizations from infiltrating Frederick County,” she says.

Also on hand for the presentation was Lt. Chad Atkins, the Commander of the Vice Crimes Section of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. “We want legitimate businesses in Frederick County to feel welcome. We also want to protect these legitimate businesses from the bad reputation that can be placed on them by individuals who could exploit this trade,” he says. “The massage industry, in particular, has been routinely used by criminals as a conduit to advance their illegal activities.”

By Kevin McManus