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'Micro-brothels' run out of Lower Mainland apartments on the rise

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver



A crackdown on Lower Mainland massage parlours has led to an increase in so-called micro-brothels run out of apartments and rental properties around the region, according to experts.

Sex-worker activist Sue Davis said buying and selling sex is legal between consenting adults in private, but when someone rents an apartment and allows others to use it for sex acts as employees it becomes a brothel and illegal.

Despite the clampdown and closures, brothel operators are still willing to accommodate sex workers looking for a safe place to work, she said.

“Instead of being an agency owner with one static location you’ve got 10 suites where different workers go and make money,” Davis said.

Burnaby RCMP Staff Sgt. Major John Buis said it has been noticed — unlike in days past — that sex workers now live and work in communities rather than being dropped off for a shift or travelling to brothels.

But hard numbers on the increase are difficult to come by, he said.

“It’s very difficult to locate or identify,” Buis said. “Usually it’s a rental accommodation and it comes and goes very quickly. They set up and if they’re detected they’re gone.”

Richmond RCMP Cpl. Stephanie Ashton said the trend has been happening in that city as well, but enforcement is a problem because by the time police get into a unit “whatever was going on inside has stopped.”

Meanwhile, Davis insists the targeting of brothels has also made the trade more dangerous, as predators know sex workers are less likely to call police for fears of being charged or deported in some cases.

She added such women can be victimized by “cowards” who will do things such as pose as a customer to get in the door before letting their friends in to beat, rob or rape sex workers.



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