Bergen County is the most populous county in the state of New Jersey, with an estimated population of roughly 950,000. The county is located within 10 miles of Midtown Manhattan. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the area, and have generated complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Notable cities and towns in the county that have had serious problems associated with prostitution and sex trafficking include East Rutherford, Paramus, South Hackensack, and Fort Lee. At least one serial killer of prostituted women has operated within Bergen County. Sex trafficking of minors has also been documented locally, as have cases of sex sellers being raped. For example, in February, 2021 it was announced that a large-scale international human trafficking organization had been operating out of Bergen County for the previous five or six years, and had trafficked women from Mexico into the U.S., then sexually exploited them throughout Bergen, Hudson, Middlesex and Passaic Counties in New Jersey, and Rockland and Queens Counties in New York. Members of a human trafficking and prostitution ring operating out of face charges after a months-long investigation by the Bergen County Prosecutors Office identified over 50 female victims, that often were abused for 12 hours per day, each by 20 to 30 men per day. More than 20 members of the sex trafficking enterprise operation had been identified and charged with racketeering, human trafficking, prostitution and money laundering offenses.
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 sex buyers Bergen County law enforcement agencies have conducted reverse stings. For example, the South Hackensack Police Department conducted street-level reverse stings in 1997 and 2004. Both operations sent female law enforcement officers undercover as decoys to walk along “troubled” stretches of the Route, and apprehended men as they solicited sex from the officers. While local media outlets publicized the names of those arrested, it is unclear whether or not the information was formally released by the SHPD. In 2004, media outlets reported that Bergen County Sheriff’s Office deputies had completed stings across the county targeting both johns and those selling sex. The stings included operations staged in Paramus. In 2013, an adult john was arrested in the city after corresponding online and arranging to meet with what he thought was a 15-year-old female (but was, in fact, a law enforcement officer working undercover) to “have sex with him in exchange for money.” The man’s name and arrest photo was released to the public. In the timeframe around the Super Bowl in February 2014, agencies in the region collaborated on a number of stings and reverse stings. The FBI was among partners in a Super Bowl sex trafficking task force set up by the New Jersey Attorney General’s office after it was announced that the game would be held in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. Soon after the announcement New Jersey officials began training law enforcement personnel, hospitality workers, high school students, airport employees and others to recognize and respond to signs of sex trafficking.
- Bergen County Sheriff’s Office
- Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office
- Paramus Police Department
- South Hackensack Police Department
- Teaneck Police Department
- New Jersey Attorney General’s Office
- “Rte. 46 Prostitution Sting Leads to Arrest of 8 Men”, Bergen County Record, September 7 1997.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 17 Arrests on Route 46”, Bergen County Record, May 9 2004.
- “Rochelle Park Man Charged with Luring, Attempted Sex Assault in Internet Sting,” Bergen County Record, August 12 2013.
- “Rochelle Park Man Indicted for Allegedly Seeking Sex with Minors Online,” Newark Star-Ledger, December 10 2014.
- https://lasvegassun.com/news/2014/feb/06/prostitution-sting-super-bowl-focused-buyers/ (2014)
- https://www.gazettenet.com/Archives/2014/01/sex-hg-010714 (2014)
- https://www.foxnews.com/us/nj-steps-up-anti-prostitution-efforts-ahead-of-super-bowl (2014)
Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Prostitution:
- “IRS: Prostitutes’ Millions Laundered in N.J.,” Bergen County Record, July 24 1996.
- “SHELTER; A Time Limit on Motel Stays Hits Welfare Families Hard”, New York Times, March 3 1996.
- “Clean Sweep in South Hackensack? A $100m Make-over Town May Tear Down Seedy Route 46 Strip”, Bergen County Record, October 12 1996.
- “Man Held on Charges in Prostitution Case”, Bergen County Record, October 31 1996.
- “Runaway Girl, 14, Found at Motel”, Bergen County Record, July 17 1997.
- “Massage Parlor Bust Results in Five Arrests,” Bergen County Record, March 30 2002.
- “Two Arrested on Prostitution, Drug Charges in S. Hackensack”, Bergen County Record, March 18 2003.
- “Crackdown on Rte. 46 Results in 56 Arrests”, Bergen County Record, July 18 2003.
- “Alleged Paramus Brothel Busted, Rented House Used as Base, Cops Say,” Bergen County Record, March 3 2005.
- “Cops: Brothel Bust Yields Videos of Clients; Paramus Police Chief Warns Such Customers of Potential That They Could Be Blackmailed,” Newark Star-Ledger, March 3 2005.
- “Highway of Cheap Thrills”, Bergen County Record, January 8 2006.
- “SHPD Arrests Five in Prostitution Operation”, Bergen County Record, March 7 2008.
- “South Hackensack Cops Crack Prostitution Den”, Bergen County Record, October 2 2008.
- “Police Break up Alleged Prostitution Ring in Paramus,” Hasbrouck Heights Patch, January 31 2011.
- “South Hackensack Cracks Down on Prostitution”, Bergen County Record, October 7 2011.
- “Bergen County Prostitution Sweep Leads to 27 Arrests, $27k in Seizures,” Newark Star-Ledger, April 2 2012.
- “Sex Sting Found No Human Trafficking,” Bergen County Record, April 4 2012.
- “Prostitution in Paramus,” Paramus Post, January 11 2013.
- “Paramus Police Discover Prostitution in Paramus,” Paramus Post, January 15 2013.
- “Paramus Police Discover Male Prostitute,” Paramus Post, January 16 2013.
- “Paramus Police Make Prostitution Arrest,” Paramus Post, August 28 2014.
- “Paramus Police Say Neighbors Help Shut down a Brothel,” Newark Star-Ledger, August 28 2014.
- “New York Man Indicted for Allegedly Operating a Brothel in Paramus,” Bergen County Record, December 19 2014.
- https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2014/02/04/fbi-16-juveniles-rescued-in-super-bowl-prostitution-bust/ (2014)
- https://www.ksdk.com/article/news/fbi-kids-13-to-17-rescued-from-super-bowl-prostitution (2014)
- https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/06/25/nj-plans-to-crack-down-on-prostitution-at-super-bowl/ (2014)
- http://bergencountynjcriminallawyer.com/east-rutherford-detectives-heightened-alert-prostitution-super-bowl/ (2014)
- “South Hackensack Police Rescue Prostitute, 16, Charge Female Pimp with Human Trafficking”, Cliffview Pilot, October 2 2014.
- “Undercover Cops in South Hackensack Rescue Teen Girl who Was Forced into Prostitution”, Newsday, October 4 2014.
- “5 Indicted on Human Trafficking Charges for Allegedly Pimping Teenage Girl,” Newark Star-Ledger, April 14 2015.
- “Crackdown on Sex Trade on Rte. 46 in South Hackensack,” Bergen County Record, April 19 2015.
- “South Hackensack Police Arrest Man in Human Trafficking Case,” Bergen County Record, October 16 2015.
- https://parsippanyfocus.com/2017/09/07/prostitution-arrest-at-hilton-hotel/ (2017)
- https://patch.com/new-jersey/teaneck/22-arrested-major-nj-prostitution-human-trafficking-bust (2021)
- https://www.radio.com/1010wins/news/22-nj-ny-residents-charged-in-trafficking-prostitution-ring (2021)
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “New Jersey Suspect, 31, Is Indicted as the Murderer of Three Women”, New York Times, August 15 1980.
- “Hackensack Man Sentenced to 17 Years for Raping Prostitutes”, Bergen County Record, January 18 2013.