Auburndale is a small city of approximately 11,000 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 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. Other large scale Polk County operations include a sting in 2013 that resulted in
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 johns for attempting to solicit sex. Less than two weeks later, the APD conducted a second john 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 johns as they approached the officer.
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.
- “Sting Fights Symptom of Drug Disease: Prostitution”, Lakeland Ledger, February 9 1989.
- “Auburndale Police Charge Five with Soliciting a Prostitute”, Lakeland Ledger, February 21 1989.
- New Florida Law Establishes Publicly-Accessible List of Convicted Sex Buyers (2019)
- https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-ne-florida-sex-offender-registry (2019)
- https://www.npr.org/podcasts/485103472/w-f-s-u-state-news-florida (2019)
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- “Vice Squad Arrests 4 in Prostitution Case”, Lakeland Ledger, May 14 1974.
- “Questionable Loitering Law Is Approved”, Lakeland Ledger, March 19 1987.
- “Police Chief Requests Lights to Cut Neighborhood Crime”, Lakeland Ledger, October 23 1987.
- “Barricade Curtail Flow of Drug Buyers on Hobbs Lane”, Lakeland Ledger, June 14 1989.
- https://www.theledger.com/article/LK/20061212/News/608107221/LL/ (2006)
- https://www.wtsp.com/article/news/local/busted-24-arrests-in-prostitution-sting (2009)
- https://www.orlandosentinel.com/polk-prostitution-ring-arrests (2010)
- https://www.theledger.com/article/LK/20130513/news/ (2013)