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Burlington is a town of approximately 25,000 residents, located in the northern suburbs of Boston near Woburn in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and throughout the county. Town officials and local law enforcement agencies have reported cases of prostitution, sex trafficking, and prostitution-related robberies and homicides in Burlington over the decades.
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. For example, the Burlington Police Department has conducted periodic 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 sex buyers as they responded to the listing. According to police reports, over 70 men 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 men’s’ 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 male sex buyers 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 reverse sting. Eight male sex buyers were arrested as a result, and had their names publicized in press. An additional man 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 web-based reverse sting 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. The Police Chief said that similar to operations conducted in the past, these strings are conducted in an effort to stop human trafficking and disrupt the relentless cycle of harm caused by the sex trade. He also said that in the prior six years the Burlington police had arrested more than 46 people in these types of operations.
In April, 2023, seven people were arrested during a prostitution sting at a hotel in Burlington. An officer posted advertisements on websites that are known for being havens for ads offering sex, and those who allegedly responded to the ads and appeared in person at the hotel were arrested. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were publicly disclosed. The Burlington Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations spearheaded the sting operation.
- Burlington Police Department
- Massachusetts State Police
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Prostitution Sting Leads to Multiple Arrests”, Burlington Patch, November 18 2013.
- “Seven Arrested in Burlington Reverse Sting”, Lowell Sun, November 18 2013.
- “Seven Johns Charged in Burlington Reverse Prostitution Sting”, Burlington Patch, November 18 2013.
- “Woman Buys Gold with Fraudulent Check, Multiple Men Arrested on Prostitution Charges”, Burlington Patch, November 29 2013.
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Police Crack Down on Prostitution”, Burlington Union, February 13 2008.
- “Local Men Among Those Charged in Prostitution Bust”, Lowell Sun, February 15 2008.
- “8 Charged after Prostitution Sting in Burlington,” Brattleboro Reformer, December 8 2014.
- “Eight Arrested in Burlington Police Department Prostitution Sweep,” Wicked Local Burlington, December 8 2014.
- “Burlington Police Will Conduct Prostitution Stings in Coming Months,” Boston Globe, October 15 2015.
- “Burlington Police to Conduct Prostitution Stings,” Boston Globe, October 20 2015.
- “Prostitution Sting Nabs Local Men,” Lowell Sun, November 23 2015.
- “Police: Brockton Man Charged with Human Trafficking in Prostitution Sting,” Brockton Enterprise, November 24 2015.
- https://www.salemnews.com/news/area-man-arrested-in-prostitution-sting (2017)
- https://jgpr.net/burlington-police-arrest-five-prostitution-sweep/ (2018)
- https://patch.com/massachusetts/prostitution-sting-nets-five-arrests-burlington (2018)
- https://www.masslive.com/7-people-arrested-after-prostitution-sting-at-burlington-hotel (2023)
- https://dailyvoice.com/prostitution-sting-nabs-7-in-burlington-police (2023)
- https://fallriverreporter.com/police-massachusetts-arrest-7-in-reverse-prostitution-sting/ (2023)
Background on Sex Trafficking and Prostitution in the Area:
- “Burlington Police Bust Prostitution Ring at 166 Cambridge St.”, Burlington Union, September 28 2012.
- https://www.clubindustry.com/commercial-clubs/fitness-club-shut-down-after-prostitution-ring-sting (2012)
- “Human Trafficking Network Allegedly Spanned NW of Boston Region”, Burlington Patch, May 13 2013.
- https://burlingtonretro.com/rubbed-the-wrong-way/ (2019)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Man Held without Bail; Prado Charged in Rape, Robbery in Burlington”, Burlington Union, February 3 2009.
- “Man Found Guilty of Rape, Robbery Charges in Burlington and Tewksbury”, Burlington Union, September 28 2011.
- “Prostitute’s Murder Fuels AG Maura Healey’s Fight vs. Online Sex Ads,” Boston Herald, July 7 2015.