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Aberdeen is a city of approximately 17,000 residents in Gray Harbors County, WA. It is located two hours southeast of Seattle. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented problems in the city for over a century. Until the late 1950’s, the city of Aberdeen permitted brothels to operate and commercial sex activity to occur legally. This activity and its wide range of ancillary crimes (such as drug offenses) have resulted in complaints to local law enforcement from residents and businesses, and have been treated as crime for the past 60+ years. One of the more serious issues related to the area’s commercial sex market is child sex trafficking.
Among the tactics used to combat sexual exploitation are those targeting consumer level demand for prostitution and sex trafficking. Aberdeen city police conduct periodic street-level reverse stings to find and arrest sex buyers. At least five such operations were conducted between 2010 and 2015, resulting in the arrest of 18 male sex buyers. The identities of the offenders were not made public. In one of these operations, uniformed and undercover officers of the Aberdeen Police Department participated in an enforcement detail targeting persons involved in prostitution, During the 6 ½ hour operation, 5 individuals were arrested. Of the arrested offenders, two were prostituted women (both 43-year-old Aberdeen residents) and three were male sex buyers. Proactive enforcement details such as this are commonly conducted by the Aberdeen Police Department to address the concerns of business and community members. At times, Aberdeen police have collaborated with the Seattle Police Department and the Gray Harbor County Sheriff’s Office. For example, in 2020, the Aberdeen Police Department, in coordination with the Gray Harbor County Drug Task Force, conducted two street-level reverse sting operations over a period of two weeks. These operations resulted in the arrest of 14 male sex buyers and two prostituted women.
Sex buyers have also been arrested through alternative investigations. For example, in 1959, the incumbent Aberdeen mayor executed a raid on the largest brothel in the city, resulting in the arrest of 18 male sex buyers and five prostituted women. The operation was conducted as the result of citizen complaints to the City Council and the pervasive corruption between politicians, police officers, and brothel owners. According to reports, police officers and politicians were being bribed by brothel owners to remain in operation. The citizens’ committee signed an anti-prostitution petition that demanded the closing of the one of the largest brothels in Aberdeen. The petition was successful and the building was ordered to close for any and all activities for a period of at least six months.
Street-Level Reverse Stings:
- “Aberdeen Police Arrest 12 More for Soliciting a Prostitute”, KXRO-AM 1320, February 7 2012.
- “Aberdeen Police Continue Prostitution Emphasis”, KXRO-AM 1320, February 9 2012.
- Five Arrested After Prostitution Sting in Aberdeen (2015)
- 9 arrested in prostitution sting at I-5 rest area in Federal Way (2018)
- Third “Operation Human Freight” Leads to the Arrests for Promoting Prostitution (2018)
- Washington State Patrol “Operation Human Freight” Leads to Arrests for Promoting Prostitution (2018)
- 16 Arrests Made In Aberdeen Connected To Prostitution (2020)
- Prostitution emphasis patrols net 16 arrests in downtown Aberdeen (2020)
- Prostitution Emphasis Patrols (2020)
Sex Buyer Arrests:
- Vice Raid Ires Aberdeenites (1959)
- Prosecutor asks closure of Aberdeen vice location (1959)
- Surprise police raid dimmed red lights (1989)
Background on Local Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Related Crimes:
- Aberdeen women arrested again on vice charges (1959)
- Yes, he said, whorehouse museum (1989)
- Putting a face on human trafficking (2013)
- Human trafficking victim tells her story to Aberdeen audience (2015)
- Smuggling Case With Ties to Grays Harbor County Sends Three to Prison (2017)
- This City In Washington Was One Of The Most Dangerous Places In The Nation In The Early 1900s (2018)
- Sporting houses’ were once part of Aberdeen’s culture (2019)
- Hidden History Gems and Facts from Aberdeen, the Former Lumber Capital of the World (2019)
- https://www.kxro.com/16-arrests-made-in-aberdeen-connected-to-prostitution/ (2020)
Local Prostitution Ordinance: