Kennewick is a city of roughly 75,000 residents in eastern Washington state. The cities of Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick form the metropolitan area known as the Tri Cities. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well documented problems in the Tri-Cities area. For example, in mid-2013, three Kennewick teenagers were arrested for coercing a 15-year-old girl into prostitution. The teens pressured the girl to have sex with an adult male for $60. The teens gave the girl $10 of the money and kept the rest. They later tried to get her to sell sex again, and when the girl refused she was assaulted.
Another case involving teens sexually exploiting younger teens occurred in 2013. A 19-year-old woman was accused of forcing underage girls into prostitution and profiting from her online operation, and the investigation resulted in the arrest of the woman, her husband, and four alleged customers. Kennewick police learned of the prostitution ring that advertised through internet ads when one of the 17-year-old girls reported the crimes to her School Resource Officer. The investigation found the teens to have been manipulated, and coerced through threats made to tell their parents or boyfriends. Investigators interviewed the exploited girls, and acquired phone numbers to identify other suspects. Photo lineups were shown to three girls, who pointed out who had bought sex. Police also worked with a hotel to acquire video footage of the suspects. Four sex buyers were identified, and another four were not identified – and investigators believe that more than eight men bought sex with the children.
In February 2015, the Kennewick Police Department reported the arrest of another john attempting to buy sex from a minor girl. Although the details of the operation were not disclosed, the investigation resulted in the arrest of an adult female for “promoting sexual abuse of a minor,” and an adult male identified as “the client”; the man was charged with commercial sexual abuse of a minor, and had his identity released to the public. A 17-year-old girl was recovered during the operation.
Through 2016, Kennewick police had not (to our knowledge) conducted a traditional reverse sting, but had made proactive attempts to identify and arrest individuals attempting to buy sex from minors, and have publicized the identities of the offenders. Similar “not-quite-reverse-stings” have occurred in several other sites we cover in Demand Forum, such as Kennebunk, Maine; Medora, North Dakota; and Issaquah, Washington.
In 2017, an operation was conducted that used traditional web-based reverse sting methods. In July of that year, twenty-six men were arrested for allegedly showing up at a Richland apartment intending to have sex with young girls and boys. Most of the suspects arrested in the multi-agency effort were living in Kennewick, Pasco and Richland. The child sex sting, dubbed “Tri-Cities Net Nanny Operation,” involved undercover detectives using various websites to chat with people interested in having sex with children