Arapahoe County, CO

Tactics Used

Buyer Arrests
Reverse stings
Shaming
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Letters
Cameras
Web stings
License suspension

Arapahoe County the third-most populous county in Colorado, with over 655,000 residents.  The county seat is Littleton, and the most populous city is Aurora (with over 369,000 residents). Parts of the county have been well-known outdoor prostitution “strolls.”  Prostitution and associated street crime and blight have been concentrated on Colfax Avenue, which runs through both Aurora and Denver.  At the extreme end of the scale, several serial killers specifically targeting prostituted women have operated in the city from the 1970s through 1990s.  Other prostitution-related homicides include a sex buyer who was killed by police when resisting arrest during a sting operation.

Among the efforts to address problems associated with the local commercial sex market have been efforts to combat demand.  Reverse stings have been conducted since at least 1988, many of them joint operations with the Denver and Aurora Police Departments, and most focusing on street-level prostitution.

Web-based reverse stings have occurred since at least 1995 in Aurora and 2013 at the county level, most of which focused on apprehending those seeking to buy sex with children.  For example, in July, 2013, the results of Operation Cross Country VII, a three-day enforcement action to address commercial child sex trafficking throughout the United States. The operation included enforcement actions in 76 cities across 47 FBI divisions nationwide, including the Denver division. The Greenwood Village Police Department and the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office participated in the Colorado operations that resulted in the arrest of 25 male sex buyers.  The identities of the arrested sex buyers were not released.

In June 2016, Aurora police arrested seven men during a web-based undercover child prostitution sting.  Each man was arrested on suspicion of soliciting for child prostitution and for criminal attempt to commit patronizing a prostituted child, and faced sentences of four to 12 years in prison,  and would be required to register as sex offenders if convicted. The men’s identities were posted on the police department’s Facebook page.  All seven were booked into the Arapahoe County Jail.

Police began publicizing the identities of arrested sex buyers in 1995, by taking out ad space in the weekly Aurora Sentinel.  The city of Aurora sent police officers to San Francisco in 1997 to investigate the feasibility of starting a john school such as the First Offender Prostitution Program, but it was never established (although Denver has had a john school from 1999 to at least 2015).  Some men arrested for buying sex have been placed on probation and ordered to perform community service.

Cameras have also been used to gather evidence used to prosecute sex buyers.  For example, in 2012 a news report discussed how Aurora police used cameras on Colfax Avenue to capture evidence of purchasing sex.  In 2017, the body camera of a code enforcement officer in Aurora captured two separate exchanges in which the officer tried to purchase sex from women in prostitution; the man pleaded guilty to one count of soliciting prostitution, a Class 3 misdemeanor, in Arapahoe County court and was sentenced to six months probation and 60 hours of community service in the case.

In July, 2021, one of the municipalities within Arapahoe County – Greenwood Village – passed an ordinance allowing for the seizure and impoundment of vehicles used while committing the crime of prostitution.  The ordinance allows the (GV) municipal court to order the forfeiture of vehicles used in six different types of crime, including prostitution, pimping, or pandering, and for human trafficking.  The law allows the GV city attorney’s office to bring a restraining order before the GV municipal court for forfeiture of a vehicle for 30 days up to a year. There is no district court or county court outside the City of Greenwood Village involved in this process. The action is considered “civil and remedial,” and “all issues of fact and law shall be tried to the Municipal Court without a jury.” There is no requirement that anyone who used the vehicle in committing the named offense need be convicted of that offense or any other infraction, including any traffic infraction, for the restraining order for the vehicle to be issued. An action filed by the GV city attorney for a temporary restraining order (TRO) for the offending vehicle must be accompanied by a written verified complaint. The “summons, complaint, and temporary restraining order must be sent by first-class United States mail to the owner of the vehicle at the address on file with the state Division of Motor Vehicles. Any lien holder must also be notified by first class U.S. mail. Alternatively, the summons, complaint and temporary restraining order shall be deemed served by impoundment or detention of the motor vehicle. The law provides opportunities for a vehicle owner who had no knowledge that the vehicle was being used as a public nuisance, or is using all reasonable efforts to abate the vehicular nuisance activities, and it is expected that those efforts are likely to abate the vehicular nuisance activities to avoid having his or her vehicle confiscated. In that situation, the owner can make their case and if they are successful in doing so, enter into a stipulation with the city to have the restraining order stayed. If a vehicle was found to be a public nuisance and had not already been impounded, this process would require the owner’s cooperation to voluntarily relinquish it to the city. The law requires that defendants turn over the vehicle, the title and the car keys. If they decided not to be compliant, the city could apply its contempt powers and the GV municipal court judge has the ability to sentence a person to 180 days in jail and up to a $2,650 fine. After a vehicle is detained, the owner can request and receive a hearing and/or trial on the merits of the complaint in the GV municipal court, which will decide if the vehicle should continue to be detained or returned to the owner.  A nuisance vehicle can be released upon payment of all towing fees, storage fees, and all actual expenses incurred by the City, plus a civil judgment of $500. The GV municipal court can reduce the impoundment and storage fees if it determines that they exceed the fair market value of the vehicle. If the owner doesn’t respond to the letter sent by first-class mail to his or her last known address by paying the fees and costs assessed to get the vehicle back or seeking a reduction in the amount owed, the vehicle will be deemed to have been abandoned and disposed of.  The city council vote for this ordinance was unanimous in favor of passage.

Key Partners

  • Arapahoe County District Court
  • Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office
  • Aurora Police Department
  • Denver Police Department
  • FBI Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force

Key Sources

Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Shaming:

Shaming:

Cameras:

Community Service:

Vehicle Seizure and Forfeiture:

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:

 

State Colorado
Type County
Population 656590
Location
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