BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO
The ongoing battle against illegal massage parlors took center stage at Tuesday’s meeting of the 104th Precinct Community Council at Sacred Heart Church in Glendale.
Capt. Mark Wachter, commanding officer of the 104th Precinct, touted the success of a new strategy he recently implemented to combat prostitution at so-called “day spas” throughout the command.
The captain’s new strategy involves stationing a uniformed police officer outside of problematic locations where illicit activities have been reported in the hopes of discouraging perpetrators and potential clients. According to Wachter, this new approach seems to be working.
After employing the new tactic, a suspected illegal massage parlor located at 69-29 Myrtle Ave. in Glendale refused to open and eventually shut its doors permanently after just five days.
A uniformed officer has also been on patrol outside of the Dream Spa, located at 65-18 Myrtle Ave. in Glendale, for the past two weeks. According to Wachter, the establishment also refuses to open its doors and is expected to shut down soon as well.
“If you’re a church, bodega or barber shop, you’re going to be happy to have a police officer in front of your place,” Wachter said. “If you’re an illegal massage parlor performing sexual services, you don’t want the cop in front of there. Nobody’s going to walk in there, and no one did.”
Wachter was joined by Deputy Inspector Mike Cody, the new head of the Queens North Narcotics and Vice Enforcement Division. Cody explained that he is working to combat the problem throughout the northern part of the borough along with his team of one lieutenant, one sergeant, several officers and detectives and four undercover officers.
“It’s a very dangerous job,” Cody added. “You don’t know what is behind that door.”
According to Cody, his team has launched 35 investigations yielding 31 “prosecutable” arrests in the past year. Evidence gathered by his undercover team has also helped to shut down six illegal massage parlors, namely one on 69th St. in Glendale. Cody also announced that there are three active investigations currently underway, and he expects those establishments to be shuttered as well.
In addition to foot patrols and undercover work, Wachter also called for wide sweeping legislative changes to help remedy the problem. The captain announced that he met with local leaders, including Assemblyman Mike Miller, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and state Senator Joseph Addabbo, to address the problem on a legal level.
“The Police Department can only do so much,” he explained. “There needs to be a change in legal policy. There needs to be an easier ability to close the places that are plaguing your neighborhood. It’s easier to close a bagel store than a massage parlor right now, and that needs to be changed.”
Captain Wachter joined the Community Council in honoring Sgt. Martha Lequerica and Police Officer Ock with the Cops of the Month Award for their diligence and valiant efforts in apprehending a suspect in possession of a 9 mm handgun during a routine traffic stop on Oct. 17 and the intersection of Union Turnpike and Woodhaven Blvd.
“We never know what this gun could have done,” Wachter said. “This is a tragedy avoided.”
Precinct Council President Len Santoro also honored Officer Geraldo Gonzalez with the first-ever Graffiti Reduction Award for apprehending prolific vandals throughout the command.