Bell County is situated south of Waco near Killeen in central Texas. IT has a population of about 335,000, and cities within the county include Belton and Temple. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the cities and unincorporated areas of the county. 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 problems associated with commercial sex in the area include child sex trafficking.
To combat prostitution and sex trafficking in the area, local law enforcement agencies have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex, which provides the revenue stream driving all commercial sex and trafficking. For example, in November 2017, a one-day internet based reverse sting operation led to the arrest of 10 sex buyers. The 10 men were all released after posting bond. Two former local school district employees were among the men arrested, the Bell County Sheriff’s Department announced.
In February 2018, the Bell County Sheriff’s Department led the local part of the “National Johns Suppression” operation. The nationwide coalition of federal and local law enforcement agencies specifically targeting customers of prostitution, and was aimed at reducing demand for purchased sex. Bell County sheriff’s deputies assisted by officers from Bryan and Temple arrested 30 men in a two-day initiative aimed at arresting individuals seeking sex for money. Bell County Special Crimes Unit Investigators handled approximately 5,800 texts and calls in an eight-hour period, in response to decoy ads posted online by police. One of the 30, a Fort Hood soldier, had a knife, six strands of rope, duct tape and a body bag in his vehicle. Among those arrested were businessmen, four Fort Hood soldiers, two men who are currently on probation for unrelated offenses and three who were transferred to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
The Temple Police Department has conducted reverse stings since 1995 to address community complaints about prostitution in the city, and has released the names of arrested sex buyers since at least 2003. In 2007, for example, TPD officers conducted a two-month-long prostitution sting that led to the arrests of dozens of suspected sex “sellers” and their alleged customers; among those picked up in the sweep were two 16-year-old prostituted girls. In August, 2019, a combined sting/reverse sting led to the arrest of eight sex buyers, whose identities and photos were included in news releases. The arrests occurred in the Temple area, and two of the men arrested were Fort Hood soldiers, and another employed at the Killeen Chamber of Commerce.
In September, 2020 the Bell County Sheriff’s Department Special Crimes Unit, Criminal Investigations Division and Criminal Interdiction Deputies, conducted a prostitution sting in the Temple area and arrested six sex buyers, all from the Bell County area. Those arrested were identified in news releases. The sheriff’s department reiterated that prostitution and human trafficking are real, extremely dangerous and prey on the most vulnerable people within the community. In a six-hour period, six men were arrested for prostitution and taken to the Bell County Jail; four of the men were employed, on duty and using their lunch hour when arrested, according to the Bell County Sheriff’s Department.
- Bell County Sheriff’s Department
- Temple Police Department
- Belton Police Department
- Bell County Jail
Street-Level Reverse Stings (with Shaming since at least 2003):
- “Police Arrest 15 People in Operation,” Temple Daily Telegram, August 2 2001.
- “Undercover Operations Net 42,” Temple Daily Telegram, June 12 2002.
- “Sting Results in Arrests,” Temple Daily Telegram, August 6 2003.
- “Complaints by Residents Leads to Prostitution Sting by Police,” Temple Daily Telegram, August 10 2003.
- “Undercover Sting Nabs 26 for Soliciting,” Temple Daily Telegram, October 5 2004.
- “Two-Month Prostitution Sting Nets Dozens of Arrests,” CBS/KWTX-TV 10, June 13 2007.
- “Temple Sting Nets 55 Arrests,” Temple Daily Telegram, June 14 2007.
Web-based Reverse stings, Shaming:
- http://www.kwtx.com/Ex-school-district-employees-among-10-arrested-in-prostitution-sting (2017)
- http://kdhnews.com/arrested-in-bell-county-prostitution-sting (2018)
- http://www.kwtx.com/Two-day-Central-Texas-prostitution-sting-nets-30-arrests (2018)
- http://www.centexproud.com/30-men-arrested-in-bell-county-prostitution-sting/ (2018)
- Ten Arrested in Bell County Prostitution Sting (2018)
- https://www.centexproud.com/bell-county-sheriff-s-deputies-arrest-ten-in-prostitution-sting (2018)
- https://www.kcentv.com/waco-employee-fired-after-prostitution-sting-arrest-in-bell-county (2018)
- http://www.kxxv.com/story/ten-arrested-in-prostitution-sting-including-former-waco-isd-employee (2018)
- https://www.kwtx.com/content/news/Ten-snared-in-7-hour-local-prostitution-sting (2018)
- https://www.kxxv.com/15-people-arrested-in-connection-to-bell-county-sting (2019)
- https://www.kwtx.com/content/news/Local-prostitution-sting-snares-more-than-a-dozen (2019)
- https://www.kcentv.com/article/news/local/six-arrested-in-temple-area-prostitution-sting/500-c72c96a0-6c38-47de-90b0-399b9a5bb040 (2020)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “East Side Targeted for Cleanup,” Temple Daily Telegram, May 25 2007.
- “Crackdown: Motel Owner Allowed Illegal Activities,” Temple Daily Telegram, June 16 2007.
- “Local Motel Owner Arrested on Federal Charges,” CBS/KWTX-TV 10, June 16 2007.
- “As Stores Moved Out, Crime Moved In,” Temple Daily Telegram, March 23 2008.
- “Avenue G’s Decline, Slow Rebirth,” Temple Daily Telegram, March 23 2008.