Wake County, NC

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Wake County is located in North Carolina, with a population of over 1.15 million, making it the state’s second-most populous county. The county seat is the city of Raleigh, the state capital. Eleven other municipalities are in Wake County, the largest of which is Cary, and others include Apex and Fuquay-Varina, and a part of Wake Forest.  The county has had longstanding problems resulting from prostitution, across its municipalities and rural areas. Sex trafficking, including cases involving minors and adults with cognitive disabilities, as well as prostitution-related homicides, are well-documented problems within the county. For example, in October 2005, charges were filed against three people for “recruiting” women and girls as young as 14 to be sex trafficked in three brothels where they were kept “under lock and key.” A four-count indictment charged the defendants for engaging in sex trafficking by bringing women from New York, New Jersey, and Maryland and finding victims to be exploited in brothels in Wake and Harnett counties. According to the indictment, the sex ring operated for seven years, until August 2004, running brothels in Raleigh, Fuquay-Varina, and at a mobile home park in Lillington. The federal indictment described how the defendants recruited an unidentified 14-year-old girl to be exploited in commercial sexual abuse, and how one defendant paid a minor to be trafficked in the Fuquay-Varina brothel in June 2003.

Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. The Wake County Sheriff’s Office and Wake County District Attorney’s Office have collaborated with local police to identify and apprehend local sex buyers driving the prostitution and sex trafficking markets. The Raleigh Police Department began targeting consumer-level demand by conducting reverse stings in 1976, and other communities have done so more recently (e.g., Cary,  Fuquay-Varina, Wake Forest). In Carey, first known reverse sting in the city occurred in 2012, in response to complaints to the Cary Police Department from a local hotel. The web-based operation involved CPD officers posting an online ad, and having a decoy police officer and support team meet interested parties at the hotel. The operation resulted in the arrest of five sex buyers. The names, ages, addresses, and photos of the arrestees were released to the media; each was charged with solicitation of prostitution. Reverse stings and the release of the identities of arrested sex buyers are still commonplace within the county. For example, in May 2022, a one-day reverse sting operation was carried out by multiple Wake County and central North Carolina agencies, resulting in two men charged for soliciting sex acts for money, the Fuquay-Varina Police Department said in a press release. Both suspects were targeted as purchasers of sex acts for money, and had solicited sex acts from an undercover officer. Fuquay-Varina investigators were joined by police from Cary, Apex and Fayetteville for what investigators called “Operation Catching John.” The two men were each charged with one count of solicitation of prostitution, and were given Wake County District Court dates and were released at the scene. The operation was part of a collaborative effort to remain proactive in combatting human trafficking and prostitution in the Town of Fuquay-Varina.

Key Partners

  • Raleigh Police Department
  • Wake County DA’s Office
  • Wake County Human Services
  • NC Community Corrections
  • North Caroline Alcohol Law Enforcement
  • Fuquay-Varina Police Department
  • Cary Police Department
  • Apex Police Department

Key Sources

Sex Buyer Arrests:

Reverse Stings:

“Prostitution Dragnet” (2003 – 2007):

Background on Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Type County
Population 1150200
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