Benton County is located in western Oregon, and has a population of approximately 90,000. It is situated along the Interstate 5 corridor, and contains the city of Corvallis and parts of Albany. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of the county. Local police have found prostitution to be linked to child sex abuse, robbery, and assault. 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, or both adults and children.
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. To identify and apprehend local sex buyers driving the prostitution and sex trafficking markets, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office has conducted reverse stings, either alone or in collaboration with city police departments. For example, in June 2013, eight male sex buyers between the ages of 21 and 51 were arrested in a single operation. The web-based reverse sting was conducted by the Corvallis Police Department, with assistance from the Benton County Sheriff’s Office and the Albany Police Department. Undercover investigators posted a decoy advertisement to a website offering commercial sex, and over the course of the 10-hour operation, received “numerous phone calls from men trying to arrange to meet with [a] female prostitute.” As the men arrived and made an explicit offer of money for sexual services, they were arrested by police. The johns’ mugshots, names, ages, and hometowns were released to media outlets. All eight suspects were either booked and released from the Benton County Jail or cited and released at the scene. In November 2017, the Corvallis Police Department helped Albany police in a similar sting that targeted sex providers and customers, and found five of the 10 customers who were arrested were from Corvallis.
In January 2018, a detective sergeant at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office gathered evidence about the level of prostitution and sex trafficking activity in Benton County by placing two separate online advertisements for paid sex at the beginning of the year, and found over 200 men and women responded and indicated a desire to engage in paid sex. The operation demonstrated how prevalent prostitution is in Benton County and Oregon. In February 2018, detectives created a new online social media advertisement which was posted on Backpage.com. Of the 70 people who responded to the ad, 10 arrived at the Rodeway Inn, 345 NW Second St., according to the Sheriff’s Office. Ten men were arrested after responding to the online advertisement, met with undercover detectives, and affirmed their intention to pay for sex. Each of the men were taken to the Benton County Jail, where they were booked and released. The johns’ mugshots, names, ages, and hometowns were released to media outlets. Two months later, three of the men pleaded guilty to commercial sexual solicitation during separate hearings in April 2018 in the Benton County Circuit Court. Each was sentenced to six months of bench probation and 40 hours of community service.The judge also ordered each man to pay $250 in fines and fees and forfeit any money seized by law enforcement during the incident. Each man must also undergo a mental health evaluation and seek any recommended treatment. As of April 2018, the other seven men had entered not guilty pleas to the charge against them and their cases are pending.
In April, 2019 the Benton County Sheriff’s Office conducted a two-day prostitution operation that led to the arrest of seven men at a Corvallis hotel. Detectives posed as a woman online who was soliciting sex for money. Once the men agreed to pay a fee to engage in sexual conduct or contact, the Oregon crime of commercial sexual solicitation was committed and the men were arrested for a class A misdemeanor. The sting occurred on April 24 and 25. More than 100 people responded to the ad to pay for sex with a 19 to 24-year-old woman. Of those, seven arrived at a local hotel and were taken into custody. With limited beds available at the Benton County Jail, the seven men were booked and released with citations.
Reverse Stings and Shaming:
- “8 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, ABC/KEZI-TV 9, June 9 2013.
- “Corvallis Police: 8 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting, After Agreeing to Pay for Sex”, Columbus Republic, June 9 2013.
- “Prostitution Sting Corrals Eight Men”, Eugene Register-Guard, June 9 2013.
- “Police Discuss Prostitution Sting Set-Up”, Albany Democrat-Herald, June 13 2013.
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- https://www.facebook.com/BentonCoSheriff/10-men-arrested-for-commercial-sexual-solicitationcorvallis-ore-the-benton-county (2018)
- http://www.kezi.com/content/news/10-men-arrested-in-Corvallis-prostitution-sting (2018)
- https://www.gazettetimes.com/news/local/benton-county-sheriff-s-office-arrests-men-in-prostitution-sting (2018)
- http://kval.com/news/local/10-cited-in-online-prostitution-sting-in-corvallis-there-is-problem-in-our-community (2018)
- http://www.kptv.com/story/37463281/sheriff-prostitution-sting-in-corvallis-leads-to-arrests-of-10-men (2018)
- http://www.gazettetimes.com/three-men-arrested-in-prostitution-sting-enter-guilty-pleas (2018)
- https://kval.com/10-cited-in-online-prostitution-sting-in-corvallis-there-is-problem-in-our-community (2018)
- https://www.kezi.com/Seven-Men-Arrested-in-Prostitution-Sting (2019)
- https://www.kptv.com/news/deputies-seven-men-arrested-in-prostitution-sting-in-corvallis (2019)