Even if the padlocks on Warren's massage parlors' doors get removed, the self-padlocking effect of parading their customers through court today should have a greater impact than the iron devices themselves.
In Warren, and throughout Ohio, massage parlors and the human trafficking that some concerned citizens say feed the labor force inside are about to see the demand for their services evaporate.
The assault against Warren massage parlors reached a crescendo when the Ohio Attorney General's Office obtained search warrants to raid 10 of the establishments. The search warrants were based on eyewitness accounts provided by spa customers that the AG's office identified through stakeouts.
A photo on the front page of last Tuesday's Tribune Chronicle spoke volumes. It showed two customers covering their faces while sitting in a courtroom. Nobody wants to be identified as a massage parlor customer, but 15 of them are to be identified in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court today. The impact that will have on future customers, who are unlikely to risk being identified in a law enforcement stakeout, could have a bigger impact than the padlocks.
Granted, the patrons would eventually figure out that if they simply refuse to cooperate with authorities they might escape such a public display. But a law passed by the Ohio General Assembly last week should provide the ultimate discouragement.
The bill increases penalties for those who traffic in people, especially minors, for the purpose of prostitution and pornography. More importantly, it creates harsh felony-level penalties for the customers, especially those serviced by minors. Historically the customers, or ''johns,'' got a free pass while the prostitutes faced prosecution, but this law targets the customers and provides resources for the prostitutes if they are victims of human trafficking. State Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, spoke strongly for the law before it passed the Senate 32-0.
Reducing the demand should cut off the supply. That's great news for cities like Warren, which is home to 10 of Trumbull County's 12 massage parlors and 43 percent of all the parlors in Ohio, and Toledo, which according to arrest and rescue statistics is a national leader in the recruitment of minors for the sex trade. The new law was sponsored by State Rep. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo.
A Toledo councilman, meanwhile, wants an ordinance requiring all sexually-oriented businesses in the city to display posters listing a hot line number that victims of the trade can call. Warren might want to see how that works.