Auburn, MA

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Auburn is a city of approximately 16,000 residents located in central Massachusetts, near Worcester in Worcester County. Local law enforcement have reported problems with prostitution and sex trafficking for decades. Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. It is unclear when Auburn Police began conducting web stings, but efforts to arrest sex buyers in addition to prostituted women date back to at least 2007, if not earlier. In January of that year, APD officers replied to an online advertisement looking for “a young girl to provide housecleaning services while topless or completely nude,” and began corresponding with the man. During their conversations, an APD undercover officer posed as a 15-year-old girl, and fielded texts from the man that included an “outline of a price list that went from cleaning for one price, all the way up to $500 a day for ‘full-contact’ sex.” When the man arranged to meet with the decoy, he was arrested by police. Although he was initially charged with “inducing a minor into prostitution [and] engaging or agreeing to engage in sex for a fee,” the charges were ultimately dismissed as part of a plea agreement wherein the man pled guilty to “attempted child rape, enticing a child under the age of 16 for sex and resisting arrest.” He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, and had his identity publicized by media outlets.

In December 2007, Auburn Police again targeted demand by conducting an “ad hoc” reverse sting. Officers responded to an online ad posted by a woman selling sex. After arresting the woman at a local hotel, police found that she had three appointments that day. APD officers then installed an undercover policewoman (borrowed from the neighboring Millbury Police Department) and a support team in the hotel for a reverse sting. The three men who arrived to buy sex were arrested. Following the operation, the men’s ages and hometowns– but not names — were released to the public.

In February 2015, APD officers conducted a more traditional web-based reversal that resulted in the arrests of three sex buyers. Police placed a decoy advertisement to a website known for prostitution activity, and arranged to meet the men who responded at a local hotel. In the days following the sting, a representative with the APD was interviewed by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. During the interview, the officer revealed that the decoy listing was only posted online for 20 minutes before being “flagged” as inappropriate and taken down. Despite the short time window, undercover officers reportedly received 25 responses from would-be sex buyers during that period, but were ultimately only able to arrest three men. Unlike in the 2007 operation, the identities of the sex buyers arrested during the 2015 reversal were released to the public.

Key Partners

  • Auburn Police Department
  • Millbury Police Department
  • Spencer Police Department
  • Worcester County Regional Drug and Counter Crime Task Force

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings (with Identity Disclosure after 2015):

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Massachusetts
Type City
Population 16188
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