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Reno Considers Freeze on Escort Services

Reno, Nevada- After licensing two escort services around the corner from City Hall in January, the Reno City Council is considering a freeze on permitting similar businesses.

Council members want to figure out how widespread the services are and strengthen the city’s regulatory control.

The two licenses the council approved earlier this year are the only existing ones for escort services in Reno, even though more than 40 such businesses are advertised in the SBC Yellow Pages. Many of the services are Reno-based.

The proposed freeze comes as council members wonder whether escort services are detrimental to downtown redevelopment efforts. The council has asked its staff to research whether it could prohibit escort services in the redevelopment district.

Current code only allows escort services in central business zoning, which is exclusively downtown. Thus the code is in direct conflict with what the council members hope to achieve.

“I wish there was something we could do about them, and I’m not sure we can,” said Councilwoman Jessica Sferrazza, who brought forward the proposed moratorium.

The Reno Gazette-Journal called several of the unlicensed escort services listed in the Yellow Pages, but they refused to discuss the nature of their businesses or did not return calls.

The proposed freeze is set to come before the council at its meeting beginning at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Reno police Sgt. Chris Lang of the special investigations group said the unlicensed escort services are often a front for prostitution. He said there are as many prostitutes working for escort services as are working independently on the street.

Officers perform stings on escort services, calling women to motel rooms or rented homes and arresting them after making a deal for sex. Such operations are expensive and time-consuming, Lang said, and one hasn’t been performed for some time.

“Very rarely do we encounter an employee of an escort that isn’t willing to solicit some sort of prostitution, or sex for money,” Lang said.

Another part of Lang’s job is interviewing applicants for licenses of escort services, including Terrilyn Tomasello Martin, who received the two licenses in January for her businesses, An Elegant Mistress and Behind-the-Pink-Door.

Martin said she is a dominatrix, giving her customers pleasure through pain. She said she has no tolerance of prostitution and considers herself a law-abiding, taxpaying citizen. She said she’s proud that she’s the only person in Reno to have an escort service license.

“I try really, really hard to stay within the letter of the law,” she said.

While Reno has licensed only Martin’s two businesses, a reverse telephone number search on SBC’s online Yellow Pages showed that several other escort services also are based in Reno. Several businesses are linked to the same telephone number.

Sparks does not currently have any escort service licenses, but does have a process for licensing such businesses. Washoe County does not allow them in the unincorporated county, on the grounds that they are “detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare.”


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