Austin is a city of roughly 950,800 residents, situated in central Texas’ Travis County. Cases of sex trafficking– involving both adult and minor victims– have been investigated in the city, and prostitution has been identified as a longstanding problem for certain neighborhoods. Prostitution-related homicides have also been documented locally.
Among their efforts to reduce the size and scope of the city’s commercial sex market, the Austin Police Department has conducted reverse stings targeting sex buyers since at least 1985. That year, several reverse stings produced the arrests of 40 sex buyers over a week-long period. Numerous reverse stings have been conducted over the subsequent 25+ years; at times, undercover officers have utilized cameras during sting operations to document evidence of solicitation. Since at least 1994, arrested sex buyers have had their names publicized in press. The city has considered using SOAP orders for both buyers and sellers of sex, but has not implemented them to our knowledge.
In June 2014, media outlets reported that at least one sex buyer had been arrested as part of a web-based reverse sting in Austin. According to reports, “the Austin Police Department posted an online advertisement in the escort section of a website used to solicit prostitution services.” The sex buyer responded to the listing and arranged to meet an undercover female officer at a north Austin hotel and pay her $60 for sex. When he arrived at the location, he was promptly arrested. The man’s name, profession, and mugshot were released to the public.
In October 2018, police arrested three men for allegedly trying to have paid sex with underage girls. Special agents posed as minors on the websites CityXGuide, MeetMe and Plenty of Fish. The three men were arrested after showing up at area motels along Interstate 35 to have sex with girls in exchange for money.
In May 2019, Travis County sheriff’s deputies and state troopers arrested at least six during a prostitution sting at a North Austin hotel targeting men trying to pay for sex with male and female minors. The Texas Department of Public Safety and the Travis County sheriff’s office launched the sting May 16-17 at a hotel on Koenig Lane near Interstate 35 and U.S. 290. Law enforcement officers created accounts on a website known to be a hub for prostitution. They connected with several men who agreed to come to the hotel for sex with a 15-year-old girl for prices ranging from $30 to $75. After investigators communicated with the men online, they waited for them to show up to the hotel and approach a room that had been agreed upon, and then officers moved in to arrest them. All six men were charged with second-degree felony prostitution, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. One man admitted texting a 15-year-old for sex but that the teenager was actually an undercover officer, and had voluntarily written a letter apologizing to the fictional teen’s father.
In December 2016, Travis County commissioners voted to start a “John School” program aimed at educating men arrested for paying for sex. The John School program would be another option for first-time offenders arrested for the crime to avoid jail time. The program is comprised of an eight hour class that costs $250. Those funds are slated to go toward helping victims of prostitution. The school is not open to people who commit crimes involving minors. County staff project that the fees should cover the costs of the classes. The fees should also generate money for the Phoenix Court, a program designed for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.
Loss of Employment:
Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the city. For example, in October of 2020, the Beaumont Police Department, along with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, conducted a two-day prostitution operation with assistance from both the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and McLennan County Sheriff’s Office, focused on targeting sex traffickers and sex buyers in the area. The investigation resulted in the arrest of 26 male sex buyers, two of which were doctors from Beaumont, TX. The arrest of one of the two doctors resulted in the immediate, temporary suspension of his medical license without notice, by the Texas Medical Board. The Texas Medical Board’s disciplinary panel determined that allowing the doctor to continue practicing medicine would pose a threat to public welfare. The second doctor arrested was a psychiatrist that had a history of criminal activity that resulted in the suspension of his license in 2011 by the Texas Medical Board. According to reports from the Texas Medical Board’s website, the psychiatrist’s medical license was temporarily suspended in January of 2011 as a result of a series of complaints from three women – two of whom were patients and one of which was the mother of a juvenile patient. The Medical Board summarized the complaints and their findings in the statement,
“Respondents actions demonstrate a pattern of inappropriate behavior, which, over a period of time, is a pattern that is likely to repeat itself and thus, is a continuing threat to the public health and safety.”
The psychiatrist’s license was reinstated in April of 2011, but only after he fulfilled several requirements, one of which was, ironically, for the psychiatrist to undergo an evaluation by another psychiatrist. No further information has been released regarding the status of the sex buyer’s medical license upon his arrest in 2020 for prostitution charges.
- Austin Police Department
- Travis County Sheriff’s Office
- Texas Department of Public Safety
- Texas Medical Board
National Assessment Survey
Street-Level Reverse Stings (with Shaming since at least 1994):
- “Round Texas & Southwest”, Dallas Morning News, April 4 1985.
- “Prostitution Arrests in Crackdown Hit 13”, Austin American-Statesman, March 12 1989.
- “Neighborhood Looks to Regain Respect After Prostitution Stings”, Austin American-Statesman, May 4 1989.
- “Police Arrest 16 in Prostitution Sting”, Austin American-Statesman, June 24 1989.
- “Austin Police Arrest 9 Men in S. Congress Prostitution Sting”, Austin American-Statesman, September 27 1990.
- “15 Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Austin American-Statesman, July 26 1991.
- “65 Nabbed in Prostitution Sting”, Austin American-Statesman, August 27 1993.
- “‘Nokoa’ Publisher Faces Charge from Prostitution Sting”, Austin American-Statesman, October 8 1994.
- “78 Men Arrested in, around Pease Park”, Austin American-Statesman, June 19 1996.
- “State Senator Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Dallas Morning News, February 20 1997.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 142 Arrests”, Austin American-Statesman, June 23 1997.
- “Austin Teen-ager Charged in Man’s Shooting Death”, Austin American-Statesman, March 28 1998.
- “Sting Targeting Prostitution Nets 35 Arrests”, Austin American-Statesman, July 2 1998.
- “Metro & State Briefing”, Austin American-Statesman, May 19 2003.
- “Austin Prostitution Sting Nets 100”, Austin American-Statesman, August 24 2003.
- “40 Arrests Made in Prostitution Sting”, YNN Austin, October 1 2003.
- “Police Arrest 38 in Prostitution Sting”, Austin American-Statesman, June 6 2005.
- “Central Texas Digest”, Austin American-Statesman, June 18 2006.
- “APD Walks the Beat in East Austin”, FOX/KTBC-TV 7, April 5 2009.
- “Six Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, NBC/KXAN-TV 36, June 27 2009.
- “APD Makes 23 Arrests in Undercover Prostitution Sting”, YNN Austin, August 2 2009.
- “South Austin Prostitution Sting Nets 19”, NBC/KXAN-TV 36, October 15 2009.
- “Prostitution Sting Leads in 11 Arrest”, FOX/KTBC-TV 36, May 1 2010.
- “25 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, FOX/KTBC-TV 36, September 4 2010.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 12 Johns”, NBC/KXAN-TV 36, March 14 2011.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 18”, NBC/KXAN-TV 36, September 17 2011.
- “Affidavit: Georgetown Official Facing Prostitution Charge”, Austin American-Statesman, June 14 2013.
- “Police Operation Nets 28 Arrests for Purchasing Prostitution,” NBC/KXAN-TV 36, October 26 2015.
Web-Based Reverse Stings with Shaming:
- “Prominent Austin Attorney Charged with Prostitution”, CBS/KEYE-TV 42, June 26 2014.
- “Owner of Local Restaurant Arrested in Sex-Trafficking Sting”, Houston Chronicle, June 28 2014.
- https://patch.com/texas/downtownaustin/3-men-arrested-trying-have-sex-underage-girls-austin (2018)
- https://www.kvue.com/article/news/local/three-men-arrested-for-allegedly-trying-to-pay-underage-girls-for-sex-in-austin (2018)
- https://www.alicetx.com/6-men-arrested-seeking-sex-with-teen-in-north-austin-prostitution-sting (2019)
- “Street Fight Over Prostitution; South Austinites on Patrol Against Problem”, Austin American-Statesman, November 16 1992.
- “Neighborhood Fights Prostitution”, Austin American-Statesman, November 5 1996.
- “Fighting for the Neighborhood”, Austin American-Statesman, March 13 1998.
- “Northeast Austin Neighbors Just Say No”, Austin American-Statesman, August 4 2002.
- “Police, Businesses Team Up to Fight I-35 Corridor Crime”, YNN Austin, May 20 2004.
- “Residents, Law Enforcement Strike Back at Crime”, YNN Austin, July 24 2007.
- “Night Without Crime Walk in North Austin”, YNN Austin, August 4 2007.
- “Rundberg Neighbors Plan Rally Against Crime”, YNN Austin, November 12 2007.
- “Rundberg Neighbors Rally Against Crime, Again”, YNN Austin, December 1 2007.
- “Repeat Arrests in Southeast Austin Trouble Residents”, Austin American-Statesman, August 15 2008.
- “Neighborhood Leadership Resonates Change in Northeast Austin”, YNN Austin, January 11 2009.
- “North Austin Neighborhood Fights Crime”, NBC/KXAN-TV 36, May 12 2010.
- “National Night Out in Austin; Neighborhoods Unite to Prevent Crime”, NBC/KXAN-TV 36, October 5 2010.
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Woman Accused of Forcing Girls into Prostitution”, YNN Austin, May 15 2003.
- “Suspected Prostitution Ring Identified, Arrests Made”, YNN Austin, June 19 2003.
- “Man Who Led Immigrant Brothel Ring Pleads Guilty”, YNN Austin, February 10 2007.
- “APD Arrests Two in Human Trafficking Ring”, YNN Austin, August 6 2007.
- “3 Charged in Prostitution Ring Involvement”, YNN Austin, June 23 2008.
- “16 Year Old Sold for Sex Online”, FOX/KTBC-TV 7, April 25 2010.
- “APD Shuts Down N. Austin Brothel”, FOX/KTBC-TV 7, July 9 2010.
- “Man Charged with Pimping Teen Prostitutes”, FOX/KTBC-TV 7, October 22 2010.
- “Police Bust Traveling Prostitution Ring”, NBC/KXAN-TV 36, November 7 2010.
- “Prostitution Ring Busted; 2 Men Booked”, NBC/KXAN-TV 36, April 21 2011.
- “APD Unit Tracks Child Sex Slaves”, NBC/KXAN-TV 36, April 28 2011.
- “8 People Held Captive in Austin Home”, NBC/KXAN-TV 36, October 19 2011.
- “Police Discover Sex Trafficking Ring in Downtown Austin”, CBS/KENS-TV 5, August 25 2012.
- “Austin Cracks Down on Sex Slavery”, NBC/KXAN-TV 36, September 9 2012.
- “Man Charged with Compelling Prostitution”, FOX/KTBC-TV 7, September 27 2012.
- “Cops: Man Forced Girl into Prostitution”, NBC/KXAN-TV 36, October 12 2012.
- “U.S. Grand Prix Raises Concerns Over Human Trafficking”, YNN Austin, November 12 2012.
- “Man Allegedly Made Wife into Prostitute”, Big News Network, December 12 2012.
- “Police Say Austin Moms Forced into Prostitution”, ABC/KVUE-TV 24, April 5 2013.
- “Man Accused of Helping Teen Advertise Herself for Prostitution”, ABC-KVUE-TV 24, January 13 2014.
- “APD: Man Charged with Compelling Prostitution,” ABC/KVUE-TV 24, January 23 2015.
- “Man Accused of Forcing Women into Prostitution in North Austin,” Austin American-Statesman, June 17 2015.
- “Man Arrested for Alleged Child Sex Trafficking in Austin,” ABC/KVUE-TV 24, September 22 2015.
- https://patch.com/texas/downtownaustin/3-men-arrested-trying-have-sex-underage-girls-austin (2018)
- https://www.statesman.com/opinion/20181109/commentary-fighting-human-trafficking-and-homelessness-together (2018)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Austin Police Will Get Grant to Cope with Prostitution”, Austin American-Statesman, May 17 1997.
- “Park Plagued by Drugs & Prostitution”, FOX/KTBC-TV 7, July 12 2011.
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Cops: Young Prostitute Slain by Client”, NBC/KXAN-TV 36, May 27 2009.
- “Man Killed for Not Paying Prostitute”, NBC/KXAN-TV 36, August 24 2011.
- “Friends of Austin Slaying Victim Remember Her as a Light in Dark Times,” Austin American-Statesman, February 1 2016.
- https://www.mystatesman.com/news/local/new-approach-fight-prostitution-send-offenders-class/F0ln8p5l2TwuxrYIFx08OM/ (2018)
- https://www.kxan.com/news/local/austin/phoenix-court-program-cutting-down-on-prostitution-in-travis-co (2019)