On February 21, 2019, a woman was arrested for prostitution after police received numerous complaints about a spa in Lancaster County. The woman referred to as “Jane Doe” is refusing to identify herself to the police. Doe has been chargedwith one count of promoting prostitution by owning, controlling, managing, supervising or otherwise keeping, alone or in association with others, a house of prostitution or a prostitution business (a felony in the third degree) and one count of prostitution by being an inmate of a house of prostitution or otherwise engages in sexual activity as a business (a misdemeanor in the third degree).
The woman was arrested after officers entered the Angel Spa, on the 400 block of West Main Street, in New Holland, Pennsylvania. The spa had been under investigation by New Holland Police and the Lancaster County Drug Task Force. Officers and detectives are still working to identify this woman. At this time, she is being held in Lancaster County Prison after being denied bail due to her refusal to identify herself.
According to the criminal complaint affidavit, an undercover officer visited the spa and paid $40 to receive a massage from Doe. At the conclusion of the massage, the police claim the woman made a gesture with her hands simulating masturbation and asked the officer, “You want?” The officer asked the woman “how much,” and the woman replied “$20.” The woman then allegedly performed a sex act on the officer for several minutes. The undercover officer eventually notified police about the alleged sex act and Doe was arrested.
The CSE Institute is awaiting more information from this investigation. At this time, it is unknown if Jane Doe is a victim of commercial sexual exploitation or human trafficking. The CSE Institute has previously reported that trafficking in illicit massage parlors is the second most prevalent type of trafficking, only second to trafficking in escort services according to Polaris. Therefore, we call for responsible law enforcement investigative tactics to end the business of these illicit massage parlors. Additionally, because the women working in illicit massage parlors are often sex trafficking victims, not criminals, the CSE Institute urges the adoption of the Nordic Model which seeks to target and punish sex buyers while providing vital social services and exit strategies instead of criminal penalties for those being exploited.
Further, if the allegations made by the news outlet are true, that the undercover officer solicitated a sex act from Jane Doe to effectuate her arrest, then the CSE Institute strongly condemns the police for this type of investigative strategy. What the undercover officer allegedly did prior to arresting Jane Doe – buying sex – is a crime in itself. Police officers should not be immune from criminal liability for soliciting sex in order to effectuate an arrest for prostitution and their abuse of power should not be tolerated. Dr. Maryann Layden, a psychologist and director of a sexual trauma and psychopathology program at the University of Pennsylvania, has testified to the fact that “each instance of being prostituted deepens the damage” that the prostituted person suffers. Dr. Layden further testified that “when police officers act as johns, and they traumatize an individual unnecessarily, it’s outrageous.” For further discussion, read our previous report on outrageous police conduct.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or Villanova University.