Bar Harbor is a town of about 5,000 resident located on Mount Desert Island on the Atlantic Coast of Maine. It serves as a gateway to Acadia National Park and attracts tourists in daily numbers exceeding the town’s population during the summer.
Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in Bar Harbor and surrounding communities in the region. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking. In a four-day period in 2016, there were 175 postings under the Backpage website’s escort section in Maine. Ads offered up sex services in cities and towns throughout the state, including Portland, Bangor, Waterville, Augusta, Sebago, Biddeford, Lewiston, Falmouth, Auburn, Gardiner, Saco, Newport, Canton, Ellsworth and Bar Harbor. Examples of sex trafficking in the region include a federal case in which two men were convicted and sentenced to serve nine years in federal prison for their roles in transporting a 13 year old girl they intended to prostitute across state lines. The victim from Lewiston began chatting on Facebook, and one of the offenders promised the young girl money, dresses, and having her hair and nails done, and eventually they drove her to Boston and advertised the girl on the Backpage.com. They drove the girl to hotels throughout the Boston area where she was told to have sex with the men for money. They returned to Maine and again advertised her on Backpage.com — as a 21-year-old “Spanish Doll” available for outcalls in the Bangor area. She was discovered during a sting operation by Bangor police detectives who had been searching for the girl, and they arrested her traffickers.
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. For example, in July, 2012 Bar Harbor police arrested a man on charges of assault, criminal mischief and engaging a prostitute. Police had received reports that two men were fighting in the street. Police learned that one man had contracted the services of an exotic dancer from Bangor. He then allegedly agreed to pay $100 for sex. When the woman tried to take $200 from him, a fight started that eventually involved a man who was waiting for the woman outside in a car. While the arrest was not the result of a reverse sting, the public release of the sex buyer’s identity constitutes shaming.
In 2013, the Maine state legislature increased the penalties for people purchasing sex, and since then sex buyers may go to jail for up to six months for committing such offenses. Harsher penalties for johns are intended to deter them from purchasing sex.
- Bar Harbor Police Department
Shaming Arrested Sex Buyer:
- https://www.ellsworthamerican.com/maine-news/man-charged-with-engaging-prostitute/ (2012)
- https://www.facebook.com/bar-harbor-police-arrested-a-man-yesterday-on-charges-of-assault-criminal-mischief (2012)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking: