National News

Activist against illicit massage parlors gets tires slashed

Posted December 28, 2017 9:46 p.m. EST

TAMPA -- Joe Manson woke up to an unpleasant surprise on Sunday morning.

He said he found the back right tires on his vehicle and his parents' slashed outside their south Tampa home on Christmas Eve. He believes it was retaliation for his work with "Clean Up Kennedy," a neighborhood campaign aimed at shutting down the illicit massage parlors around them.

The tire-slashing took place three days after the Tampa City Council voted to move ahead with an ordinance designed to target illegal sex acts at these parlors. Manson spoke out in favor of the ordinance at the Dec. 21 meeting.

"It's definitely a crummy thing to have happened right before Christmas," said Manson, 27.

The family's security camera captured video of what appears to be a white woman puncturing the tires before running down the street.

Tampa police spokesperson Janelle McGregor said the case is still being reviewed and that officers have the surveillance footage.

"Detectives are still actively investigating to determine the woman's identity and motive for committing the crime," she said.

Manson said he is certain the perpetrator is someone opposed to the ordinance, which critics fear will hurt women and sex workers more than the businesses themselves.

"Obviously it was an attempt to disrupt or intimidate us," he said. "I'm going to let the police do their job, but from the beginning, we've known the forces we're going up against are criminal in nature.

"This is the first time anyone's ever physically attacked our property. It was unpleasant but it wasn't completely unexpected."

He said the neighborhood campaign will continue to put pressure on illicit businesses in the new year: "This isn't going to stop us or slow us down at all."

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact the Tampa Police Department at (813) 231-6130.

Contact Divya Kumar at dkumar@tampabay.com. Follow @divyadivyadivya.