Burlington, MA

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Shaming
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Letters
Cameras
Web stings
License suspension

Burlington is a town of approximately 25,000 residents, located in the northern suburbs of Boston near Woburn in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Though fairly small in size, town officials and local law enforcement have reported cases of prostitution, sex trafficking, and prostitution-related robberies and homicides in Burlington in recent years.

To reduce prostitution activity in the area, the Burlington Police Department has conducted at least two reverse stings. During the first operation, conducted in February 2008, BPD officers placed a decoy advertisement offering commercial sex on Craigslist and arranged to meet johns as they responded to the listing. According to police reports, over 70 johns called the decoy number; among them, 17 made “appointments” with an undercover officer. Twelve men were ultimately arrested when they showed up at a Burlington hotel and made an offer of cash for sex. Their names were not released to the public.

In November 2013, the BPD conducted a second reverse sting at a local hotel that netted seven sex buyers. Although the logistical details of the operation were not disclosed, police did opt to distribute the johns’ names, addresses and arrest photos to local media outlets. A BPD representative also stated that community complaints play a role in driving police to conduct anti-prostitution investigations.

In December 2014, law enforcement conducted a third reverse sting, this time again using decoy online advertisements. Eight johns were arrested during the operation when they arranged to meet what they thought was a prostituted woman at a local hotel. All of the men’s names, arrest photos, and other identifying information were publicized by local media outlets. When asked about the investigation, a BPD representative commented:

“In conducting these operations, the Burlington Police Department is seeking to send a loud, clear message to those who want to engage in prostitution and would bring women here for the same purpose: Do not bring your business to Burlington… There is no room for this kind of elicit activity in our community.”

In November 2015, BPD officers announced the completion of a fourth web-based reversal. Eight johns were arrested as a result, and had their names publicized in press. An additional adult male was intercepted and charged with “trafficking of persons for sexual servitude” after “attempting to recruit an undercover officer posing as a prostitute to work for him” during the course of the investigation.

In January 2018, five men were arrested during a reverse sting operation conducted at a Burlington hotel.  The sting included the Burlington police detective unit, officers from the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office and the New England Electronic Crimes Task Force. Those arrested were charged with sexual conduct for a fee and arraigned in Woburn District Court.

 

Key Partners

  • Burlington Police Department
  • Massachusetts State Police
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
    • Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)

Key Sources

State Massachusetts
Type City
Population 25034
Location
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