Harris County battles sexually-oriented businesses - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Harris County battles sexually-oriented businesses

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"It's called Babes.  It used to be Bikini Wings," an undercover officer said just before a raid.

The strip club on FM 1960 has been the scene of numerous arrests.

"They're soliciting prostitution.  They're openly using dope in the club," the undercover officer said.

FOX 26 Investigates was given exclusive access to cover this raid in late September.

Judging by video shot by undercover officers during prior visits to Babes, the dancers are doing more than bumping and grinding on poles.  In fact, most of the undercover video is unsuitable for broadcast TV.  Officers said seeing sex acts in the club was commonplace.

"You see some people in there having sex, stop what they're doing, but don't let them separate," the undercover officers told other officers prior to the raid.  "We're going to put them in jail for public lewdness."

Even though the dancers wore little more than fishnet hose and high heels, no one was arrested for public lewdness that night, but several people get popped for drug possession.

It wasn't the bottles of prescription pills that got one dance in trouble.  Officers said they pulled marijuana and a scale from the trunk of her car.

Even though the women never know who might walk into the club and see them dancing, the thought of being on TV seemed to bother them more than getting arrested.

"Oh God," one dancer said after spotting our camera.

"These businesses can greatly deteriorate the quality of life in any part of the city, any part of the county that they exist," Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan said.

Since taking office in 2009, Ryan has taken a novel approach to combat crimes linked to sexually-oriented businesses: hit their wallets.

"They're in it for money," Ryan said.  "And if you take the money out of the equation, then they're not going to be nearly as interested in doing this kind of business."

Babes was apparently hoping dancer mud wrestling would be good for business that night, but the plastic kiddy pool would not be inflated.

Instead, employees found themselves answering questions from law officers as illegal drugs and at least one gun were found inside the club.

The county attorney's office uses a documented history of criminal activity to file suit against sexually-oriented businesses like Babes, accusing them of being a public nuisance.  In the last couple of years, the county attorney's office has filed more than a dozen public nuisance lawsuits against strip clubs, spas and massage parlors.

"You see flashing red massage signs, 24/7, all over the city," Ryan said.

He said a lot of these businesses are fronts for human trafficking.  Women, sometimes men, are forced into the sex trade because they're in the country illegally, can't speak English and have no one to turn to.

"Many, many of these locations are recording everything," Ryan said.

While the businesses might be using those cameras to keep an eye on employees they've forced into prostitution, customers should be very concerned.

"You may be on somebody's recording device and guess what?  Who knows what that might mean to you and the rest of your life," Ryan said.

"When we opened the door, we were shocked with this vandalized, trashed place," Assistant County Attorney Melissa Spinks said of Babes.

Instead of fighting the county attorney's office in court Babes, closed on its own.   It took the dance floor, stripper poles and just about everything else not permanently attached.

The club owner did not return our calls seeking comment.

"While we want the people to leave, we don't want them to trash it," Spinks said.  "The ceilings are bashed in, the tiles are destroyed.  It's absolutely disgusting in here."

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