Tips from concerned citizens about massage parlors led to a Lubbock police sting at six businesses resulting in arrests of five people for soliciting prostitution, police officials announced this week.
The operation by the Lubbock Police Department's special operations unit targeted A&B Massage at 7302 82nd, J Massage at 5903 82nd, Spring Spa at 4114 Ave Q and New Massage at 2229 34th St.
"Notices are sent to these owners, that say, 'This is going on at your establishment, this is the first, second, however many times we've been here,' and so our objective is to shut those businesses down completely," said Lubbock police spokesman Lt. Leath McClure said on Wednesday.
Five women were arrested as a result of the stings which were conducted from Nov. 4-9. Jin Yufen, 44, Yi Jun Xiang, 54, Hong Meifang, 58, Xiaohong Hao, 57, and Tu Meihua, 65, are each charged with prostitution, which became a felony offense in September.
"Some were employees that work there, some were, for a lack of a better term, the madams that work at the different massage parlors," he said.
Texas was the first state to make prostitution a felony. The offense was upgraded by the State Legislature in September from a Class B Misdemeanor to a State Jail Felony, which carries a punishment of six months to two years in a state jail facility. A prior conviction for prostitution can enhance the charge to a third degree felony, which carries a punishment of two to 10 years in prison.
McClure said the police department received numerous calls from residents who believed the massage parlors were fronts for prostitution. The tips were sent to the department's special operations unit, which investigated them.
"The public has been a tremendous help in providing us with information that something here's not right, what's going on here doesn't seem like it's legit," McClure said.
Investigators also interviewed the women who were used as prostitutes and are considered victims in the case.
"It's definitely not a victimless crime," McClure said. "The victim are these women that are trapped in these prostitution rings and sex trafficking rings that have no one to look out for them and no one to offer them any sort of help. They are basically trapped by the people they work for."
He said the upgraded prostitution charge gives law enforcement more power to fight prostitution, which he said is prevalent in Lubbock.
"A lot of these massage parlors, whether they be the employees, the bosses or even the owners, that know about what's going on in these businesses and allow these women to work in those conditions, that's the people that we're going after," he said. "That's the people that we're trying to get off the streets so we can protect these women that are working in these establishments."
He said the calls from residents reporting the massage parlors show the department's strong ties with the community.
"I think they see it's a problem and they understand it's a problem," he said.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Lubbock police arrest five in massage parlor prostitution sting