By Rachel Wulff

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The City of Sacramento is cracking down on massage parlors, but this time they aren’t targeting the sex workers, they are setting their sights on landlords and the managers.

City Council leaders are looking at ways to penalize landlords and managers of these types of businesses, which often are the front for prostitution. They are trying to get landlords’ attention by hitting them where it hurts — their pocketbook.

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“What we want to do is create an ordinance that goes after the main property owner…and the manager who is allowing this stuff to happen,” said Sacramento Vice Mayor Eric Guerra.

Guerra is serious when it comes to stopping sex trafficking and prostitution at massage parlors in the city of Sacramento.

“It’s not fair for those who follow the law and then you have all these others who are ruining the industry,” said Guerra.

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Guerra says in 2018 there were 50 investigations and 30 arrests.

Many locations have been shut down, like one in the 8500 block of Folsom Boulevard and others just a bit up the road. Other targeted locations are along Stockton Boulevard.

A possible ordinance is targeting landlords for illegal activity on their properties isn’t sitting well with the property owners. CBS13 spoke with a couple of them off camera who say the city is shifting the blame and the financial burden on them.

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The owner of a strip mall where the now-shuddered K-Spa was located sent this statement through his attorney.

“The city is unfairly shifting its responsibility onto innocent landlords. A landlord cannot police the conduct of every tenant it has. If a massage parlor is doing something illegal, the city and police should have the power and resources to shut the place down,” said Shawn Dhillon, corporate counsel for Ethan Conrad Properties.

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“But the reality is we see a business which is Happy Sunny Day Spa. The next day we close it down and it’s Sunny Day Happy Spa. And that same location becomes flipped over and over again and it’s just a ring for prostitution and human trafficking,” said Guerra.

Guerra says targeting the landlords is the way to get to what he says is the root of the problem: Absentee landlords. And the law is on their side.

“If the city feels that there is a sufficient nuisance involved, they can fine the landowner civilly. Like every time there is a violation it could be $250 all the way up to $2,500 per violation. That’s what they do for cannabis,” said attorney Mitch Abdallah.

Guerra has asked his staff to fast-track the legislation.

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“If we wait too long, every single day there is someone being victimized and we’re not improving the economics of our commercial corridors,” said Guerra.