Fewer illegal massage parlours detected last year
Legal establishments welcome new stricter rules for industry
In Lavender Street is a row of shophouses that, up to early last year, used to house more than 10 massage parlours.
But, just as suddenly as they were set up, more than half closed down and were replaced by a convenience store, a gym and a hostel.
Residents and shop owners in the area noted the closures began early last year, as new and stricter rules governing such establishments came into force.
Since March last year, massage establishments in most areas have had to close by 10.30pm and are forbidden to post indecent advertisements. Those without a licence face harsher penalties, and owners caught for the first time can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $10,000 - 10 times the previous sum - for operating without the right papers.
Figures provided by the Singapore Police Force show that the number of illegal massage establishments detected fell by 36 per cent to 188 last year, from the figure in 2016. About 45 per cent of the illegal massage parlours detected last year were engaged in vice-related activities, the police found.
Licensed massage parlours fell by 8 per cent to 1,099 last year, from the figure in 2016. In Lavender Street, this drop is evident on a stretch of road a few hundred metres away from the Bendemeer Light housing blocks that used to be dominated by six massage establishments.
The change in the landscape has been welcomed by neighbouring shops and residents. Bendemeer resident Tang Ailing, 48, said workers would try to promote massages to men walking by but ignore female passers-by.
Legal massage establishment operators also welcomed the changes to the industry, even as they scrambled to adjust to the new rules, such as the shorter operating hours. They also had to cope with a fall in business as a result of stepped-up enforcement operations, massage parlour operators told ST.
Mr Albert Tay, secretary of the Spa Professionals Association of Singapore, said business at his massage parlour in Orchard Road was affected in the first half of last year, as there were more enforcement checks.
"Who wants to be confronted when they are undressed?" he said.
On the whole, however, the tougher measures could help clean up the industry, he said.
Mr Eddie Sia, president of the association, said he has heard of many closures of massage parlours, but it remains to be seen if the measures have fully eradicated all "dirty massage" places.