(Houston TX) – Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia is praising Commissioners Court and state lawmakers for bringing tough new regulations on topless bars, massage parlors and related businesses to the unincorporated areas of Harris County, where 1.5 million people live.
“It shows how officials from various branches of government can come together and make it a good day for Harris County,” the sheriff said. “County neighborhoods will be safer and property values will be less threatened as we use new tools to fight the crime, blight and human trafficking that often accompany the so-called adult entertainment industry.”
County Judge Ed Emmett and the four county commissioners today adopted Commissioner Jack Cagle’s proposal to clamp the new regulations on sexually oriented businesses (SOBs), some of whose owners apparently moved their operations outside the City of Houston boundaries — but still within the county — when the city adopted similar laws several years ago.
State Reps. Patricia Harless and Debbie Riddle of Harris County carried the state legislation that now allows the county to adopt regulations similar to the city’s ordinances.
SOBs that have proliferated in the FM 1960 corridor in the county’s northern suburbs will become special targets of new enforcement.
“Our crime-fighting deputies will continue to bust SOBs for prostitution, illegal drugs, illegal gun possession, unlicensed serving of alcohol and other crimes, just we like we have done before,” the sheriff. “But the county regulations will, among other things, allow us to work with the County Attorney’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office and the constables to prevent some of these unwanted businesses from opening in the first place.”
SOBs will have to obtain licenses to operate legally, and a fire marshal’s inspection is one of the requirements of licensure. Information on the criminal backgrounds of any operators will also be required. The regulations provide for notice to, and input from, residents before any SOB can open. The new regulations can be viewed online at http://www.harriscountytx.gov/coatty/countyregulations.aspx
“As for existing businesses, the regulations will help us stop SOB crime dens from re-opening with new names and nearby locations after we taken them down for prostitution, drugs or alcohol violations,’’ Sheriff Garcia said.