Berlin is a small town of less than 600 residents located in southern Georgia’s Colquitt County, roughly midway between Moultrie and Valdosta. Prostitution in the town has generated complaints to police, who have linked the activity to a wide range of crimes. The Berlin Police Department has stated that it is important to combat prostitution because it is often linked to other crimes, and they incorporated tactics that address underlying consumer-level demand. “Some of the crimes that are usually involved with prostitution are obviously drugs, rape, robberies, [and] multiple different other criminal acts,” one BPD officer reported.
In October 2013, the BPD arrested 22 sex buyers in a reverse sting after receiving complaints from residents that people were providing sex in exchange for prescription pills in residential areas in the vicinity. Investigators then used a vacant house and posted “decoy” profiles on web sites such as Craigslist to intercept men seeking to buy sex. Fifteen of the offenders were released after posting bond and eight were taken to Colquitt County Jail. Among the men taken to jail, five were from Valdosta, and one each were from Albany, Moultrie and Tifton. As of early November 2013, two were still reported to be the targets of active investigations. The identities of most (but not all) of the arrestees were released to local news outlets.
When asked about the operation, police stated that they targeted men seeking to buy sex by using online ads on Craigslist.com, Backpage.com, Backescorts.com, Plentyoffish.com, Adam4adam.com and “The Valdosta Underground Sex Club.” While monitoring the websites for ads in the area in the week leading up to the reverse sting, BPD officers found seventeen individuals advertising for prostitution services on just one of the websites (Backpage.com). According to the a report in the Mauldin Observer, police “used a vacant house on Brice Street — with the homeowner’s permission — to set up, putting in video and audio equipment on the outside and inside to record men arriving and walking into the house. Prior to that, they posted several decoy profiles on the [aforementioned] websites, and invited men who had previously initiated conversations involving paying for sex.
“The alleged customers who were arrested were instructed to make a call after arriving near the Brice Street residence and to stay on the phone while driving up to the house, the reports said. An undercover agent went out on the porch, gave the house number and kept perspective customers on the line until they arrived. She or he then entered the residence and left the door open, allowing the men to make the decision on whether or not to enter”, to verify that the “person (and phone number) who had previously solicited for prostitution was in fact the same offender arriving in the driveway.”
- Berlin Police Department
- Web-Based Reverse Sting, Shaming: