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Beaufort is located on the south-east coast of South Carolina, and has a population of approximately 13,000 residents. It is located in the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city serves as the county seat of Beaufort County. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented within the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates have resulted in complaints to law enforcement agencies from local residents. There have also been several incidents of violence and robberies relating to prostitution. For example, in March 2019, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) announced that several recent armed robberies all centered on prostitution originating from the website Skipthegames.com. Investigators said they had made contact with five men who admitted offering money for sex with women advertised on the website. In each scenario, the woman briefly left the room “to get more comfortable.” That’s when one or two gunmen enter the room and rob the men of their wallets, cash, and cell phones. In October 2021, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division announced that a Beaufort County woman was charged with operating a massage parlor that permitted commercial sex activity, and that it was located within 100 yards of a childcare facility.
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. Demand reduction tactics used in the town include reverse stings and the disclosure of sex buyer identities. For example, in June 2022, the Beaufort Police Department and Beaufrot County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference where they revealed the results of their recent Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The operation took place over one week in March 2022. “Operation Rock the Boat” involved members of the task force communicating with adults online who believed they were communicating with children. Four individuals traveled to Beaufort with the intention to sexually abuse people who they believed were 13 and 14-year-old children. The ICAC Task Force identified 14 suspects who either attempted to engage in sexual activity, provided sexually explicit materials, or continued conversations with minors. Five of the 14 suspects were arrested under varying charges. Three of the men arrested were from Beaufort County, and one was charged for offering to pay a minor for sexual abuse.
Some local arrests of sex buyers are the result of investigating allegations against real victims as opposed to the product of sting operations using police decoys. For example, in June 2017, a Beaufort man was charged with prostitution and second-degree harassment after he allegedly offered a woman $25,000 for sex on multiple occasions via phone calls and texts. The victim reported the incidents to police, and said the man had been contacting her days earlier through voicemail and text messages, according to the Beaufort Police Department.
- South Carolina Law Enforcement Division
- South Carolina Attorney General’s Office
- Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office
- Beaufort Police Department
Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure:
Background on Child Sexual Exploitation:
- https://www.counton2.com/officials-arrest-4-who-traveled-to-beaufort-to-have-sex-with-minors/ (2022)
- https://yourislandnews.com/undercover-investigation-targets-online-predators/ (2022)
Background on Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Associated Violence:
- https://www.wjcl.com/beaufort-county-men-seeking-prostitutes-get-robbed-at-gunpoint (2019)
- https://www.islandpacket.com/news/local/crime/ (2019)
- https://www.wltx.com/article/prostitution-website-linked-to-several-armed-robberies-in-sc-county- (2019)
- https://www.live5news.com/beaufort-co-woman-charged-with-operating-brothel-near-childcare-facility/ (2021)
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