City says escort services are illegal, unlicensed

INDIANAPOLIS - Police are cracking down on a so-called business that impacts public health, public safety and your tax dollars.

Officials said the escort business is largely illegal and unregulated. Several internet sites advertise the services of escorts -- there are hundreds to choose from -- but officials with the Department of Code Enforcement said not a single one has a license from the city.

Women, or so-called escorts, have moved off the streets and into cyberspace, but the business remains the same. Escorts sell a service that denies Indianapolis taxpayers any benefit.

"There's no sales tax collected. There is disease that is spread. And there's people being trafficked that don't really want to be doing it," Sgt. John Daggy with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department vice unit said.

Because there isn't a single licensed escort anywhere in the city of Indianapolis, as an industry, it has cheated local taxpayers out of tens of thousands of dollars in revenues.

With the Indianapolis 500 expected to draw at least a quarter of a million spectators, police say large numbers of out-of-state escorts will follow the money into the city.

"The license gives us the ability to do a couple of things, background checks, that sort of thing. But at the end of the day, it's on the person performing the service to get a license," said Adam Baker with the Department of Code Enforcement.

Metro police have recently targeted area massage parlors, shutting down five this month for allegedly engaging in prostitution and for failing to obtain proper zoning and licensing.

While enforcement of vice laws and city codes becomes somewhat problematic, they're on the books nonetheless.

"My expectation is that it follows the licensing procedures like any other organization and that Code Enforcement enforces it and we make sure they're operating legally," City-County Councillor Ben Hunter said.

Metro police say the number of unlicensed escorts in Indianapolis continues to increase despite recent enforcement efforts.

"It's definitely a problem and it's going to keep growing worse because it's easy money and they're not paying the tax man," Daggy said.

Police have cited 75 women for prostitution and/or failing to obtain an escort license. There is an economic incentive to pursue the cases because failing to obtain an escort license can bring fines of up to $2,500.

Follow Jack Rinehart on Twitter: @jackrinehart6

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