By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Business owners in Old City are outraged days after Philadelphia’s vice squad busts a prostitution ring in a basement apartment near Third and Chestnut Street, arresting three women. This isn’t the first time an unsavory business has been found at that location.

“Everyone who knows about it jokes about it, ‘Oh yeah, the whorehouse on Third Street.’ It’s like the neighborhood joke,” says Richard Thom, an Old City business owner.

Thom has owned a business in Old City for more than 20 years and chairs the Land Use and Building Committee of the Old City Civic Association. He says police have busted prostitution in the basement of 42 South Third Street more than a half a dozen times over the past 15 years, but the business just re-opens.

“Old City Civic does not understand why this continues to repeatedly happen. It’s two blocks from Independence Hall, operating out in the open as a massage parlor for promoting prostitution,” says Thom.

Vice Unit Lt Charles Green says police will ask the property owner to evict the tenant running the massage parlor and issue a cease operations order.

“We charged them with that offense, but it’s only equivalent to a parking ticket,” Green explains.

He says the problem is the owner of the building rents the property to a third person. Police will get the prostitutes out of the space and then the owner re-leases the property to another third party who could then start up a new business with a different name.

“These folks are renting the property from the owner of the building. And when we go to the owner of the building he’s like, “Whoa, I had no idea” and we have no way of proving whether he did or did not,” says Green.

Lt. Green advises residents of the area to call 911 if they see suspicious activity.

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