Bethel Park, PA

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Bethel Park, referring to itself as the Municipality of Bethel Park, is a borough within Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. It is part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, approximately 7 miles southwest of the city, and has a population of approximately 34,000. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-established problems in the city, and have generated related crimes such as rape, assault, homicide, drug offenses, and production of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in criminal codes). For example, in July, 1992, the beaten body of 14-year-old female sex trafficking victim was found in Bethel Park. The girl from East Pittsburgh was a frequent runaway who was in the custody of Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families, according to the Allegheny County police. She had lived in a foster home but had recently run away. An anonymous caller to 911 reported finding her body, which had been lying near a set of railroad tracks along Willis Road in Bethel Park. The county Medical Examiner’s office determined she had died of blunt force trauma to the head and found evidence of strangulation.  She was last seen near the Greyhound bus station at Ninth and Penn avenues, in downtown Bethel Park. The girl was the mother of a young child, and was known to have been trafficked in commercial sex in the area, according to police.  Investigators interviewed dozens of people — including several sex traffickers who had exploited her, but were never able to determine a motive for her death or to identify a suspect. In 2013, police noted that sex trafficking in Bethel Park and surrounding areas remained a local problem.

In July, 2019 a report was released by the Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Pennsylvania at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law.  The report presented county-level data on arrests for purchasing sex in Pennsylvania (the state has separate statutes for buying versus selling sex) during calendar year 2018.  The report’s data comes from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, and during 2018 there were 32 arrested sex buyers in Allegheny County that were charged under the statute for purchasing sex (18 Pa.C.S. § 5902(e)).  It is important to note that there may have been larger numbers of arrested sex buyers, since some cities and counties may choose to handle such cases by issuing civil citations for violating prostitution ordinances in local courts or magistrate’s offices, rather than charging with a state criminal offenses in district courts.

Demand reduction tactics have been used in the city.  For example, in 2004, a Bethel Park man was accused of arranging to pay to sexually abuse a two-year-old girl sold by her mother into prostitution, and plotted to molest other girls in his neighborhood. The man had been charged with receipt and possession of “child pornography” (i.e., CSAM) and coercion and enticement in arranging to have sex with the two-year-old daughter of a Reading, PA woman who peddled pornographic pictures of the girl and then sold her to men for sexual abuse. Several men traveled to the house, some from other states, to sexually assault the girl, according to the FBI. The mother was in federal custody while the FBI and police tried to track down her “customers” in Texas and elsewhere. The little girl was placed in foster care. An Assistant U.S. Attorney presented evidence that the man not only arranged to sexually abuse the girl and collected child sex abuse materials (CSAM) involving the child, but that he also kept a notebook under his bed in which he kept track of neighborhood girls who played in a doll house in his back yard. He also kept a “daily log” in which he named specific girls and described their bodies and clothing. In the e-mail conversation with the girl’s mother, transcribed in a search warrant affidavit, the offender first asked for pornographic pictures of her and then asked where and when they could have sex. The mother also offered herself for paid sex. FBI agents are reviewing a collection of computer diskettes and pornographic images taken from the man’s house. The man’s identity was included in news reports.

Key Partners

  • FBI
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office
State Pennsylvania
Type City
Population 33556
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