It’s been two years since Apex police said they were led to the Touch of Asia massage parlor on East Williams Street.
“That really culminated from a very long, intense investigation associated with narcotics and a couple of other criminal activities,” Captain Mitchell McKinney said.
Police arrested and charged Xin Lan Chao and Seong Fan Chen with practicing massage therapy without a licence, and Quan Chun Li with promoting prostitution and continuing a criminal enterprise.
“We did engage in a multi-agency investigation in October 2016 where we developed information that Asian females were being trafficked from China after answering advertisements to come to the USA to work,” McKinney said. “The females were likely taxed and told they owed a substantial amount of money, as payment for coming to America.
“We also suspect the females may have been distributed to brothels, exotic dance clubs, and massage parlors, and where likely victims of human trafficking, labor trafficking and sexual exploitation.”
McKinney said officers go through training to look out for signs of human trafficking.
“We’re not happy that this is occurring in our environment,” McKinney added. “A lot of it boiled down to simply very good police work, attention to detail and the ability to maintain surveillance on this location after we initially became involved in work in the investigation.”
He said the Apex Police Department also works with groups and residents throughout the community. That includes Shield North Carolina, which is a local non-profit dedicated to spreading awareness about human trafficking.
“If there’s a demand, there will be a supply,” Shield North Carolina Director Nicole Bernard said. “If we can eliminate the demand, we can eliminate the supply.”
This week, Bernard said she and others are focused on awareness, devoted to panels and groups while connecting residents with information to put a stop to the trend.
“This is a reality that human trafficking could occur, and here are the different groups, that by helping them, you could also be eliminating human trafficking,” Bernard said.
Bernard said other events will be taking place in Apex this week as part of Freedom Week. For more information on the organization, click here.