‘They are everywhere’: Crackdown on illicit brothels
THE speed which illegal brothels can be set up and be taken down is making it tough for police to pin down how many are masquerading as massage parlours on the Gold Coast.
The latest crackdown has led to the shutdown of four massage parlours allegedly acting as illegal brothels.
Two of those massage parlours have been closed until December next year while the other two have been temporarily declared prohibited brothels until court proceedings take place. The massage parlours were allegedly offering sexual services for as little as $20.
Police sent a number of undercover officers into the massage parlours masquerading as clients.
One of those officers was used because he was fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese, the Bulletin can reveal.
Officers were conducting surveillance on the massage parlours as well as questioning clients as they left.
Queensland Police Major Organised Crime Squad (MOCS) Detective Acting Inspector Kev Groenhuijzen said Operation Romeo Bailie targeted the four massage parlours after the "progression of intelligence reports over time".
"The gathering of intelligence is ongoing so the point that needs to be realised here is that those operating illegal brothels across Queensland should quit their illegal behaviour now, as it is only a matter of time before they are taken before a court," he said.
Det Insp Groenhuijzen said the mobile nature of the set ups made it hard to determine how many were in operation. "It is difficult to say with any certainty as they can be assembled and disassembled quickly," he said.
Det Insp Groenhuijzen said it was important to remember that some massage parlours were legitimate.
Southport councillor Dawn Crichlow, who has long campaigned for police to crack down on illegal brothels, cheered the police crackdown effort.
"They are everywhere," she said. "It's exploitative."
Cr Crichlow said it was also unfair to legal brothels which had to follow stringent conditions and high fees when getting a licence.
"(Legal brothels) can't be near a school, they can't be near shops," she said.
"They are being pushed out in the industrial areas."
While the legal brothels are being pushed to the outskirts, one of the allegedly illegal brothels, Blissful Body Massage, was operating at Crestwood Plaza in the same complex as a supermarket and a burger shop.
Cr Crichlow said she was thrilled by the crackdown but more still needed to be done.
She supported efforts earlier this year which saw the legitimate massage industry take steps to distance itself from illegal operators.
This included signs in windows noting establishments had been approved by industry bodies.
In 2017, Cr Crichlow said she wanted to eliminate massage parlours "one by one" by installing cameras outside them to catch out users.
This year's raids come two years after officers from the Queensland Police Operation Papa Validate raided 12 Gold Coast massage shops.
Before that, the last big citywide raids on the illegal sex trade were in 2014 when police searched 50 massage parlours.