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Alamance County is located in central North Carolina, and has a population of about 171,000. Throughout the county’s communities (e.g., Burlington, Mebane, Graham) and unincorporated areas, local prostitution generates numerous complaints to police and is linked to a number of other serious crime types, including child endangerment and sex trafficking. In May 2019, Alamance County deputies were looking for two people wanted in connection with kidnapping and prostitution. Deputies said they had received a report of a missing person who was last seen in Alamance County. Through the investigation, deputies learned the missing person was in danger, and later conducted a traffic stop on a car that was believed to be involved with the missing person. During the stop, deputies believed the missing person was being held against their will and possibly involved in the commercial sex industry. They were able to locate the missing person, and the suspects were wanted for charges of first-degree kidnapping, sexual servitude of an adult victim, and promoting prostitution for profits. In 2020 the U.S. Department of Justice awarded the office $325,000 for the sole purpose of hiring three officers dedicated to human trafficking and internet crimes against children in Alamance County.
Community engagement has also become a prevalent part of addressing demand in the area. In December 2019, an Elon University student started an anti-human trafficking organization on campus. According to its founder, the organization hoped to rally students and provide education about the prevalence and types of trafficking in addition to working with other local groups dedicated to the same cause.
To combat consumer demand driving prostitution and sex trafficking markets, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office collaborates with municipal police to conduct reverse stings. For example, the Burlington Police Department conducts reverse stings in response to complaints and tips about prostitution in certain areas of the city, and to alleviate problems such as prostitution-related child endangerment. Those arrested have their names, ages, charges, and photos provided to the media. For example, in July 2018, four men were charged with soliciting prostitution in a weekend undercover operation by Burlington police. The reverse sting was organized in the Ireland Street area “in response to community complaints and concerns” about prostitution, according to a Burlington Police Department news release. In March, 2018, Burlington police arrested five men accused of soliciting a prostituted person after multiple complaints in the community about prostitution. All five faced charges of solicitation for prostitution and received secured bonds as low as $500 and unsecured bonds as high as $2,500. Police urged anyone with information about prostitution to call Burlington police at (336) 229-3500. In March 2019, complaints from residents again prompted an operation to identify and arrest people soliciting a prostitute. Five men were charged in an undercover reverse sting operation, and the identities of the arrestees were published. All five were charged with soliciting prostitution.
In Graham, another Alamance County city, the Sheriff’s Office assisted local police on a web-based reverse sting conducted in June 2017. Nine men were charged following a prostitution sting operation at a local hotel. Online ads were posted by undercover investigators, and some arranged to buy sex at the hotel. The nine arrests occurred in a six hour span. The purpose of the operation was to decrease demand for prostitution in the area, which has been linked to human trafficking concerns, according to local police. The identities of the arrestees were publicly released. The Graham Police Department was assisted by the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office, Burlington Police Department, Gibsonville Police Department, Mebane Police Department, Haw River Police Department, the Alamance County District Attorney’s Office, the NC State Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security.
In August 2019, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office led a reverse sting operation entitled “Summer Special,” where they targeted commercial potential “clients” that wanted to pay for sexual acts. Fourteen men were arrested and charged with solicitation of prostitution, including a University of North Carolina professor and a Durham County Emergency Services worker. Names, photos, and identities were released to the local press. The operation also resulted in the seizure of $1,725.00 in U.S. Currency. Collaborating agencies included the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit, Special Operations Unit, and Vice Unit; Burlington Police Department Special Victims Unit; North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation; Department of Homeland Security Investigations.
In July 2020, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office and their partners conducted another summer sting that resulted in the arrests of 21 people from all over the state. The investigation, titled Operation Summer Heat, intended to target issues posed by human trafficking. Sheriff Terry Johnson even made a statement about the prevalence of the problem, saying that “human trafficking isn’t just a county or state issue: it’s nationwide.” In February 2021, another sting resulted in the arrest of 13 people, including sex buyers.
In May 2022, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office Human Exploitation Team conducted an undercover operation, investigating individuals who were soliciting prostitution. During the investigation, detectives conducted a traffic stop on a Burlington man who had solicited prostitution for money. He was charged with solicitation of prostitution and possession of marijuana, and his identity was included in news releases.
In response to a survey conducted in 2021 by the NCOSE team for a National Institute of Justice grant to update and expand Demand Forum (Grant #2020-75-CX-0011), representatives from the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office reported that they have also implemented the following tactics: vehicle seizure, SOAP orders, public education, surveillance cameras, and community service. They also said that on more than one reverse sting, they used a male decoy and arrested female sex buyers.
- Alamance County Sheriff”s Office
- Special Victims Unit
- Special Operations Unit
- Vice Unit
- Burlington Police Department
- Graham Police Department
- Mebane Police Department
- Gibsonville Police Department
- North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation
- Homeland Security Investigations
2021 National Assessment II Survey
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure, Neighborhood Action:
- “Burlington Police Arrested 10 Suspects during Prostitution Investigation,” FOX/WGHP-TV 8, June 25 2012.
- “Four Charged in Prostitution Investigation,” Burlington Times-News, October 22 2012.
- http://www.greensboro.com/news/crime/charged-in-graham-prostitution-sting (2017)
- http://www.thetimesnews.com/news/20180723/four-charged-in-burlington-prostitution-sting (2018)
- https://www.thetimesnews.com/news/20190325/5-charged-in-burlington-undercover-prostitution-sting (2019)
- https://myfox8.com/2019/03/23/burlington-police-arrest-5-men-accused-of-soliciting-a-prostitute/ (2019)
- http://www.mebaneenterprise.com/news/articlehtml (2019)
- https://www.wjhl.com/news/police-operation-leads-to-27-arrests-in-nc-for-human-trafficking/ (2019)
- https://www.elonnewsnetwork.com/article/2020/07/alamance-county-sheriff-human-traffic-prostitution (2020)
- https://www.wral.com/14-men-including-unc-professor-and-durham-county-ems-worker-charged-with-soliciting-prostitution/18570788/ (2020)
- https://www.wxii12.com/article/alamance-county-deputies-arrest-prostitution-charges (2021)
- https://www.wfmynews2.com/article/news/crime/13-arrested-alamance-county-prostitution-solicitation (2021)
- https://www.mebaneenterprise.com/news/article (2021)
- https://myfox8.com/deputies-arrest-13-for-prostitution-charges-after-human-trafficking-operation/ (2021)
- https://www.thetimesnews.com/alamance-sheriffs-office-arrests-13-prostitution-charges/ (2021)
- https://www.alamance-nc.com/soliciting-prostitution-leads-to-charges-against-burlington-man/ (2022)
- https://www.wxii12.com/article/alamance-soliciting-prostitution-charges (2022)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Alamance Co. Authorities Charge Trucker with Human Trafficking,” FOX/WGHP-TV 8, August 8 2014.
- “Alamance County Men Snared in Larger Human Trafficking Probe,” Burlington Times-News, September 2 2015.
- “Prostitution Case Involved 16-Year-Old as Well as 15-Year-Old,” Burlington Times-News, September 3 2015.
- https://myfox8.com/2019/02/11/10-arrested-in-alamance-county-operation-valentine-prostitution-sting/ (2019)
- https://www.thetimesnews.com/news/20190211/operation-valentine-11-snared-in-alamance-prostitution-human-trafficking-case (2019)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Police Raid Alleged Prostitution House,” Burlington Times-News, October 8 2007.
- “Alleged Brothel Shocks Neighbors,” Burlington Times-News, October 11 2007.
- “Details of Prostitution Bust Emerge,” Burlington Times-News, June 14 2011.
- “Complaints Lead to Drug Arrests at Burlington Motel,” Burlington Times-News, December 15 2014.
- https://www.wfmynews2.com/alamance-county-sheriff-crackdown-human-trafficking-triad-operation (2019)
- “Mother Pleads Guilty to Prostitution in Front of Children, Neglect,” Burlington Times-News, February 26 2013.