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Androscoggin County, Maine has a population of approximately 108,000 and is located in the central part of the state. Its county seat is Auburn, and Lewiston is the second largest city in Maine and the central city of Androscoggin County. Auburn and its sister city Lewiston are known locally as the Twin Cities or Lewiston–Auburn. In 2021 the district attorney in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties told a legislative committee that it’s time to acknowledge that people who are caught up in the “nightmare circumstances of human trafficking and sexual exploitation” are victims, and one of the measures lawmakers were considering was establishing a pilot program in Androscoggin County to address those issues. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well documented local problems throughout the county. For example, in January, 2009, Auburn police responded to community complaints about prostitution by deploying undercover officers to respond to online ads on Craigslist that appeared to offer sex for sale, and made two arrests on charges of prostitution. A 24-year-old woman pleaded guilty to engaging in prostitution, and a 37-year-old woman pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution. Among the problems associated with the local commercial sex market was the murder of a prostituted woman in 2011. A missing Lewiston woman who had advertised “escort services” on Backpage.com was killed in 2011 by the brother of her “madam” or pimp, according to a police affidavit. Sex trafficking has also been documented in the area, and several incidents of underaged girls being picked up during prostitution “sweeps” have also been reported. In December, 2016, it was announced that an Auburn resident was sentenced in U.S. District Court to nine years in prison and five years of supervised release for transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent that she engage in prostitution. The man and an accomplice drove a 13-year old girl from Maine to Boston for the girl to engage in prostitution (or trafficked child sexual abuse) in area hotels. They drove her back to Maine and ultimately to Bangor, so that she could again be trafficked for prostitution. In 2018, Auburn Police made an arrest regarding a local prostitution operation that was being conducted out of a local hotel. Detectives interviewed a sex trafficking adult victim after making contact with her at a local hotel. Based upon that interview, detectives found probable cause to charge a man with felony Aggravated Sex Trafficking and was held at the Androscoggin County Jail. Also in 2018, police arrested three women accused of engaging in prostitution in downtown Lewiston.
To address the wide range of crimes occurring in the county as the result of the sex trade, county agencies have supported the use of demand reduction tactics. Municipal police in some of the county’s cities have been collaborating with the Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office and local social service advocates to address prostitution, especially in inner-city areas. For example, in September, 2018, more than 10 men were arrested in a series of street-level reverse stings targeting downtown Lewiston. The operations placed an undercover officer on streets in areas identified as problem spots for prostitution. Police arrested the suspects, and posted the men’s photos, names, ages, and addresses in news releases. The men were taken to the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn, where they were booked. Agencies within the county have also collaborated on demand reduction operations in neighboring counties. For example, in June, 2019 six men were arrested in a sting in Oxford County and were charged with “soliciting a prostitute.” The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office, Androscoggin District Attorney’s Office, and Auburn Police Department collaborated with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office, Maine State Police, Maine Department of Corrections, FBI Human Trafficking Task Force, Department of Homeland Security and other agencies on the reverse sting.
- Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office
- Androscoggin County Jail
- Auburn Police Department
- Lewiston Police Department
- Maine State Police
- Maine Department of Corrections
- FBI Human Trafficking Task Force
- Department of Homeland Security
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Prostitution Sting Nets Priest,” Ellensburg Daily Record, September 6 1997.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 12 in Lewiston,” Lewiston Sun Journal, February 3 1998.
- “Police Nab 30 in Prostitution Sting,” Lewiston Sun Journal, April 25 1998.
- “Arrest Figures Low for Johns, But Increasing, Maine Police Say,” Bangor Daily News, October 19 2012.
- http://www.sunjournal.com/prostitution-lewiston-police-nab-four-in-sting/ (2018)
- https://fox23maine.com/prostitution-crackdown-nets-4-more-men-in-lewiston (2018)
Background on Local Prostitution, Sex Trafficking:
- https://www.seacoastonline.com/maine-sting-nets-2-/ (2009)
- http://archive.boston.com/maine_sting_nets_2_for_prostitution (2009)
- https://www.justice.gov/auburn-man-sentenced-nine-years-transporting-minor-prostitution (2015)
- https://www.pressherald.com/ndroscoggin-county-man-and-woman-each-get-9-years-for-pimping-13-year-old-girl/ (2015)
- https://www.necn.com/Man-Woman-Sentenced-for-Transporting-Teen-to-Work-as-Prostitute (2015)
- https://www.mainesten.org/Maine Human Trafficking Needs Assessment 2015 (2015)
- https://www.auburnmaine.gov/Police/Aggravated Sex Trafficking Arrest Made (2017)
- https://www.bangordailynews.com/man-accused-of-running-auburn-prostitution-ring/ (2017)
- https://www.wmtw.com/auburn-police-bust-alleged-prostitution-operation-at-hotel (2017)
- https://www.facebook.com/auburnpd/posts/ (2017)
- https://92moose.fm/arrest-made-in-auburn-prostitution-operation/ (2018)
- https://www.wmtw.com/bill-would-decriminalize-prostitution-in-maine (2021)
- https://humantraffickinghotline.org/en/statistics/maine (2021)