MADISON, AL (WAFF) - The underworld of prostitution and human trafficking is a dark one, often hidden from the public eye, but it exists in Madison County a lot more than one may think. On our streets, inside our businesses, and on the internet.
"We used to be just a pass through state," said Pat McCay with the Madison County Human Trafficking Task Force. "They would come from Atlanta to Memphis. They would pass through our state. Now they are staying."
McCay said the sex trade is a growing problem in our area.
"This is kids down the street from us, who live here, runaways, kids who just don't fit in that get sucked up into these horrible crimes," she continued.
Earlier in the week, Madison Police arrested an employee of the "Lucky Spa Massage" for prostitution. Just two days later, the business shuttered, the building for sale, and the owner arrested on charges of aiding and abetting.
"It offends me because they are engaging in prostitution under the guise of massage, and so it automatically gives my whole profession a black eye," said Denise Sullivan, a massage therapist.
Sullivan is a Madison massage therapist, and a legitimate one at that. She said places like the "Lucky Spa Massage" are popping up all over the metro area, and it's affecting people like herself just trying to make an honest living.
"A lot of lay people associate all massage with what's going on in these commercial sex businesses," she continued. "Most of us who are legitimate try to make it abundantly clear that we are legitimate."
Cracking down on these crimes mainly lays in the hands of law enforcement, but of course money and manpower are an issue. That's why Pat McCay and her task force are working to raise awareness.
"I was one of those people who thought prostitutes chose to be prostitutes," she said. "Unfortunately, they do not always choose to do that, and being forced to do something you wouldn't normally do, is human trafficking."
The Huntsville Task Force was started just two years ago. Now, legislation to start a statewide task force sits on the governor's desk. McCay is hopeful he will sign it soon.