Illegal brothel activity is rife in Shepparton and authorities are not doing enough to stop it, a spokesman for the city’s only licensed brothel claims.
Apollo 45 spokesman William Albon has slammed Shepparton police and Greater Shepparton City Council, which he claimed ‘‘sit by idle’’.
‘‘Shepparton tourism could take a big hit because the council and detectives have not acted,’’ he said.
‘‘Family groups will shy away from Shepparton’s best accommodation establishments when they are confronted with illegal brothel activity in the room next door.’’
A Victoria Police spokesperson would not comment about investigations in Shepparton, but said the illegal sex industry had grown in recent years.
Mr Albon said he became aware of increased illegal prostitution in rooms in Shepparton accommodation establishments about October last year.
‘‘It began with internet site Locanto and spread to regional print newspapers.’’
A quick search for ‘‘Greater Shepparton’’ on the worldwide online classifieds network Locanto brings up dozens of scantily clad women, advertising their services.
Mr Albon showed The News numerous text message conversations, with the women asking him to attend accommodation venues in Shepparton.
‘‘Nearly 10 allegations were provided to council for transmission to the police,’’ he said.
‘‘The illegal trade did not stop, it flourished.’’
Mr Albon said he knew of six accommodation establishments where women illegally provided sexual services in Shepparton, which he described as a breach of the council planning laws.
‘‘When council wouldn’t act, we proved to all of the accommodation owners what was going on at their business,’’ he said.
‘‘Responsibly, a couple of them appeared to understand and they indicated they would bring this nonsense to a halt. The others appeared to laughingly dismiss our claims.’’
The council said after receiving a complaint about illegal brothels/sexual services, officers passed on information to Victoria Police.
‘‘If the police investigation results in exposing a planning breach, council can take action using the evidence provided by Victoria Police,’’ a statement read.
‘‘Council will not act on any information regarding any illegal brothels unless this information is corroborated by Victoria Police.’’
The council said a complaint was recently received from a member of the public and was forwarded to Victoria Police on January 30.
Victoria Police said there was nothing to indicate Shepparton had more illegal brothels than any other regional city.
‘‘The illegal sex industry as a whole has grown over recent years,’’ a statement read.
‘‘We think some of the reasons for this are that the massage industry is unregulated and the growth of the internet allows anyone who wishes to advertise sexual services to do so.’’
Police said investigations and response to illegal activity in the sex industry — as with any industry — was a local police responsibility.
‘‘Local police engage with councils regarding the ongoing compliance and management of those licensed under the Sex Workers Act,’’ a statement read.
‘‘We ensure that we have a good working relationship with our stakeholders as we work together to address the issue of the illegal sex industry.’’
Mr Albon called on the council to use powers available to it in terms of how its planning laws were being abused and urged Shepparton police to take up a ‘‘responsible role in combating the proliferation of illegal brothel activity’’.
‘‘As only then can the tourist trade get on with (what) it does best,’’ he said.
Shepparton police was contacted for comment.