Amarillo is a city of approximately 200,000 residents, located two hours north of Lubbock, and lies within both Potter County and Randall County Texas. Residents and local law enforcement have reported problems with prostitution in the city for decades, specifically along Amarillo Boulevard. Cases of sex trafficking of children and the murder of prostituted women have also been documented in the city. In response, the Amarillo Police Department has adopted several demand-driven tactics to identify and apprehend local sex buyers. Police conduct periodic street-level reverse stings, using undercover female officers as decoys. When sex buyers attempt to solicit sex from the women, they are arrested. These operations have at times netted just under 10 sex buyers in a single evening. Arrested men may have their names publicized in local media outlets. For example, a street-level reverse sting occurred in December 2013, in which six men were arrested on Amarillo Boulevard. Undercover female officers posing as prostituted women approached male customers who were interested in engaging in sexual activities in exchange for money, resulting in the arrest of six men, who were booked into the Potter County Corrections Center on prostitution and other charges. In 2016, the organization “No Boundaries International” opened a chapter in Amarillo, specifically focusing on human trafficking. In addition to prevention and victim services, the group launched a “john school” course for those who pay for sex.
Web-based reverse stings have also been conducted in Amarillo. For example, in September, 2017, seven men were arrested during a joint online internet operation targeting child predators. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, DPS, the online operation and was assisted by Homeland Security and the West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) Police Department. DPS said seven suspects were arrested and booked into the Randall County Jail on a variety of charges, including Compelling Prostitution Child Younger than 18 years of age, and Online Solicitation of a Minor. In September 2018 a similar operation occurred, resulting in the arrest of six men for online solicitation of a minor in Amarillo. The Amarillo Police Department had received information over the prior year and half that several local teenage girls were involved in human trafficking. Some of these underage girls had been forced into this type of behavior and others were prostituting themselves on dating and escort sites. The APD Special Victims Unit and ProActive Criminal Enforcement unit (PACE) conducted an undercover operation with Special Victims Unit Detectives posing as 15-16 year olds. The suspects initiated contact with the undercover officer by text messages and arranged to have sex for money. When the suspects arrived at the agreed upon location they were arrested, interviewed and booked into the Randall County Jail for online solicitation of a minor, a felony offense. In March 2021, another large scale human trafficking/prostitution operation resulted in 37 arrests, mostly of males on prostitution charges. The Amarillo Police Department used shaming by posting the names and pictures of those arrested on social media. In August, 2021, another operation produced the arrest of 27 sex buyers. In September, 2021, the state of Texas elevates paying for prostitution from a Class B misdemeanor to a state jail felony.
Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the county. For example, in October, 2014, a pastor at an Amarillo church resigned from his post after being arrested Texas Department of Public Safety officers while with a prostituted woman at a local motel. The pastor had served at the Hillside Christian Church’s Hillside Canyon campus since 2009. The pastor penned a letter to be read to the church’s congregation, admitting to knowingly booking an appointment for an “inappropriate sexual encounter.”
- Amarillo Police Department
- Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving Unit
- Narcotics Division
- Special Victims Unit
- ProActive Criminal Enforcement Unit (PACE)
- Homeland Security Investigations
- West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) Police Department
- Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission
- Family Support Services Amarillo
- No Boundaries International
Sex Buyer Arrests, Shaming:
Reverse Stings, Shaming:
- “Amarillo Police Arrest 12 on Prostitution Charges”, Amarillo Globe-News, July 16 2004.
- “Prostitution Extends Beyond the Boulevard”, Amarillo Globe-News, February 11 2007.
- “8 Face Charges After Prostitution Sting”, Amarillo Globe-News, December 23 2011.
- “Ten Men Charged in Reverse Prostitution Sting”, My High Plains, April 5 2013.
- “6 Men Arrested in Amarillo Prostitution Sting”, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, December 13 2013.
- “Six Men Arrested in Undercover Prostitution Sting”, CBS/KFDA-TV 10, December 13 2013.
- https://www.ntd.com/37-people-arrested-for-human-trafficking-prostitution-operation-in-texas (2021)
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- http://abc7amarillo.com/news/local/7-amarillo-men-arrested-in-online-predator-sting-operation (2017)
- http://www.newschannel10.com/2018/09/22/men-arrested-online-solicitation-minor/ (2018)
- https://www.myhighplains.com/news/local-news/37-arrested-in-2-day-human-trafficking-operation/ (2021)
- https://www.newschannel10.com/amarillo-area-law-enforcement-arrest-people-human-trafficking-prostitution-operation/ (2021)
- https://www.kltv.com/2021/08/17/amarillo-police-make-27-arrests-charges-related-prostitution-special-operation/ (2021)
- https://www.amarillo.com/amarillo-pd-27-arrested-recent-human-trafficking-solicitation-operation/ (2021)
Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:
- https://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/article/Texas-pastor-arrested-for-soliciting-prostitute (2014)
- https://news4sanantonio.com/news/local/support-groups-help-sex-trafficking-survivors-in-amarillo-during-recovery-process (2017)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Affidavit: Man Coerced Amarillo Teen into Prostitution”, ABC/KVUE-TV 24, August 3 2013.
- “Texas Man Sentenced for Using Teen as Prostitute”, Contra Costa Times, October 29 2013.
- “Amarillo Man Admits to Trying to Force Teen into Prostitution,” NBC/KAMR-TV 4, July 9 2015.
- “19-Year-Old Sentenced to 11 Years in Teen Prostitution Case,” NBC/KPRC-TV 35, September 20 2015.
Background on Prostitution in the Area: