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Bartow is a city of almost 20,000 residents, located about 45 miles east of Tampa, and is the county seat of Polk County, Florida. Prostitution has been well-documented in the county and surrounding areas.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies and local organizations as a strategy for prevention and response. For example, identity disclosure and loss of employment are consequences of buying sex that have occurred within the city. For example, in August 2008, Hillsborough County prosecutors concluded that an investigation had produced sufficient evidence for a misdemeanor charge of soliciting prostitution against an official with the State Attorney’s Office in Bartow. The man abruptly resigned soon afterward as director of a pretrial intervention program. His departure came amid an investigation into whether he propositioned a 20-year-old woman who was taking part in the program. After initial allegations, the Hillsborough State Attorney and police investigators used a recording device during a lunch with the man. They ultimately decided not to prosecute him, but the man’s identity was included in news reports.
In February, 2023, it was announced that the Bartow 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.
- Bartow PD
- Florida State Attorney’s Office
- Polk County Sheriff ‘s Office
- Florida Department of Law Enforcement
Sex Buyer Employment Loss, Identity Disclosure:
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- https://www.wtsp.com/61-arrested-in-polk-county-prostitution-sting (2014)
- https://www.wfla.com/pga-golfer-arrested-in-polk-county-prostitution-sting (2019)