Auburndale, FL

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

Auburndale is a small city of approximately 17,400 residents, situated near Inwood, Winter Haven and Lakeland in Polk County, Florida. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of the county, for decades.  For example, in December, 2006, two motels were seized and 66 people were arrested during an undercover vice sting operation led by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit and assisted by the Narcotics Unit and Intelligence Unit. Efforts were concentrated in Lakeland, Winter Haven, Lake Wales, Auburndale and Frostproof areas. In 2009, two people were arrested in Auburndale during a county-wide operation targeting prostitution.  A 77 year old man was charged with Deriving Proceeds from Prostitution (i.e., pimping a 35 year old women), Soliciting Another for Prostitution, and Violation of Probation – Grand Theft/Fraud/Possession of Methamphetamine, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

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.  At least two street-level reverse stings were staged in the city in the 1980s. In January 1989, officers from the Auburndale Police Department conducted a three-week investigation into prostitution activity along Hobbs Road, an area known for commercial sex and illegal drug sales. Between January 13th and February 9th, undercover female officers arrested 15 male sex buyers for attempting to solicit sex.  Less than two weeks later, the APD conducted a second reverse sting, resulting in the arrest of 5 sex buyers. Officers reported the second operation was more challenging, as some of the prostituted women in the vicinity recognized the decoy from the previous operation and revealed her identity to sex buyers as they approached the officer.

In February, 2023, it was announced that the Auburndale Police Department participated in a large scale sex trafficking operation led by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office that resulted in 213 arrests. During “Operation Traffic Stop,” 24 potential human trafficking victims were identified, and 89 suspects were arrested for “soliciting a prostitute,” traveling to the undercover location to negotiate having sex in exchange for money.

The Florida State Legislature passed a bill that was signed into law in June, 2019, that creates a registry of convicted sex buyers and provides a publicly-accessible listing of their identities. The registry data includes the names, addresses and photos of people found guilty of soliciting sex from a prostituted person. The database is part of a broader piece of legislation aimed at combating human trafficking by lowering demand for commercial sex.  If fully implemented, all communities in Florida would be included as using shaming as a tactic applied to arrested sex buyers.

State Florida
Type City
Population 17412
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