By Kathryn Menue


On Wednesday, Sept. 14, the Belvidere Police Department, along with several other agencies, raided four massage parlors in Belvidere.

“I’ve never been involved in a sting where four search warrants were conducted simultaneously,” Detective Sgt. Matt Wallace said.

The four establishments raided were C’est La Vie Health Spa and Modeling at 401 S. State St. in Belvidere, Spa-Tui-Na at 120 N. State St. in Belvidere, Executive Relaxation Station at 134 N. State St. in Belvidere, and Royal Oriental Massage at 404 S. State St. in Belvidere.

“There was a wide range of activities occurring [at the above locations] from massages to sexual activity,” Detective Sgt. Wallace said.

In all, 14 people were arrested with 24 charges being filed including: promoting prostitution, prostitution, solicitation of a sex addict, and massage licensing act violations.

Due to the high amount of charges filed, the Belvidere Police Department held a press conference on Friday, Sept. 16 at 10:30 a.m. at the Public Safety Building to discuss the case.

“We wanted the opportunity to have a formal announcement,” Belvidere Mayor Mike Chamberlain said.

During the press conference, several police department members and city officials discussed the issues surrounding the case.

The Wednesday raid came after a 14-month long investigation involving four detectives from the Belvidere Police Department, 30 investigators, and manpower from other organizations including: Boone County Sheriff’s Department, Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Task Force, Belvidere/Boone County Metro Narcotics Unit, Illinois State Line Area Narcotics, Team (SLANT), Loves Park Police Department, Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department, and Rockford Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (RAASE).

“You can imagine the tremendous manpower this took,” Belvidere Police Chief Jan Noble said. “Our work that we’ve done here is only the first step.”

Over the next few months, the Belvidere Police Department will continue reviewing all aspects of the investigation, including reviewing confiscated materials from the raids, such as video footage. Based on how the investigation goes, additional charges could be filed in the future.

“The human trafficking angle is still under investigation,” Detective Sgt. Wallace said.

The police department will continue the investigation despite the backlash from social media slamming the department for using so many resources on what some see as a “victimless crime.”

“This is not a victimless crime,” Deputy Chief Shane Woody said. “There are women, children, and men affected by prostitution that are slaves to the sex trade.”

The Belvidere Police Department wants to make sure these facilities were not involved in such crimes, but if they were, the department wants to make certain the offenders are charged accordingly.

Despite some negative reactions, many city and county residents were excited the raid finally occurred, since many citizens have called and complained about the massage parlors’ suspicious activities.

“When people of the city come to the department and say ‘you need to do more,’ you do,” Chief Noble said. “This city is a great place to live, but I can also tell you the scourge of the massage parlors has created a blight on the city.”

To warrant that this illegal activity does not continue in Belvidere, Mayor Chamberlain hopes to redo city code with City Attorney Mike Drella, where businesses would need a business license through the city.

Mayor Chamberlain hoped this can be done with little to no fees, so as not to hurt businesses financially.

“We want to be helpful to businesses, not punitive,” Mayor Chamberlain said.

By creating this new code, if a business were established in the city that involves itself in illegal activities, the city could shut it down.

Currently, the city does not have the power on its own to make illegal businesses, such as the massage parlors, vacate city limits.

If this future endeavor pans out, the city would have the jurisdiction to close down facilities that engage in illegal acts.

Fourth Ward Alderman George Crawford hoped the city could eradicate this problem.

“I would like to see them cleaned up,” Crawford said. “There’s four on State Street, and that’s pretty bad.”

One of the main reasons the Belvidere Police Department finally was able to raid these facilities was because the establishments lacked the proper massage licensing to be in business.

Deputy Chief Woody said that is why massage parlors must be licensed. If a massage parlor has a license to practice massage therapy, they are less likely to commit illegal acts.

He also said that this sting operation finally was able to go into play due to the dedication from the community wanting the police to take action against the massage parlors.

“It’s important to them, so it’s important to us,” Deputy Chief Woody said. “If you see something out of the ordinary, please notify us.”

Belvidere Police Sgt. Patrick Gardner said that this “sensitive investigation” will take a while to process and that the department will keep the community updated through local media and through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. To keep track of the ongoing story, be sure to Like the Belvidere Police Department’s Facebook page and to Follow them on Twitter.

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