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Camden County, New Jersey Camden is located directly across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and is part of the Philadelphia/Camden metropolitan area. Its county seat is the city of Camden, and the county’s population is roughly 524,000. The city of Camden and its surrounding areas have high levels of poverty and high crime rates generally, and local prostitution and sex trafficking are pervasive problems and well documented. Prostitution and sex trafficking have posed chronic and visible problems in the city for decades, and at least one serial killer and one serial rapist have targeted prostituted women in Camden and surrounding areas. Camden Police and public officials have reported substantial spillover between the city’s prostitution and drug markets. For this reason, several early anti-prostitution operations were frequently conducted in parallel to anti-drug operations. This “dual” strategy reached a peak in the early 2000s, when the CPD established a community policing unit (since disbanded) that specifically targeted prostitution, drug and other “quality of life” offenses.
More recently, prostitution and sex trafficking continue to be pervasive throughout the county (including in the cities of Cherry Hill, Collingswood, and Mount Laurel). For example, in December, 2016, law enforcement officials arrested nine women who allegedly offered sex for money, plus a another woman and a motel employee, during a series of stings in Camden County. Police called the operation a “proactive prostitution enforcement effort” in which officers found the women based on their alleged online advertisements and then posed as “johns.” Also involved in the stings were officers from Brooklawn, Gloucester City, Mt. Ephraim, Runnemede and the Camden County prosecutor’s office, according to the statement. Police said officers responded to the online postings or ads and scheduled meetings with each of the 10 women. When they met a woman at a predetermined locations, which was usually listed in the ad, they would agree on a sexual act for money and the officer would give the woman money. At that point, the woman would be arrested. Of the nine prostitution arrests, seven were in Bellmawr, one was in Gloucester City and one in Runnemede. In January, 2022, authorities announced that three people from Camden County had been arrested for allegedly trafficking a missing child for prostitution and during their investigation, detectives discovered that they were allegedly operating a human trafficking network. According to the New Jersey State Police, their work began in October 2021 when a juvenile was reported missing from Voorhees Township. The next day, detectives from the NJSP Missing Persons & Human Trafficking Unit were contacted by the Voorhees Police Department to find the child. Police said that during the investigation, detectives discovered numerous online advertisements offering the missing juvenile for prostitution in Cherry Hill, N.J. Through various investigative means, detectives linked a suspect to the advertisements, then located and arrested her in Camden, after she allegedly attempted to traffic the juvenile victim. Detectives located the missing juvenile and reunited her with her family. Further police work allegedly linked the offender to a human trafficking network that involved two other conspirators.
Consumer level demand for prostitution drives all sex trafficking, and in response local law enforcement has used tactics that target sex buyers. Since August 2013, New Jersey has had a state law (S2468) that allows police to impound of vehicles used by drug buyers or anyone soliciting or engaging in prostitution. The Camden County Police Department has used the new statute, impounding 40 vehicles in less than three months. Thirteen people (six from Camden, seven from outside the city) were arrested on August 16 and August 21, 2013, and charged with Soliciting a Prostitute. The suspects were issued a summons and those without outstanding warrants were released. Eight vehicles were impounded by police. In describing their use of this auto seizure law, Camden Police Chief J. Scott Thomson said,
“Open air drug markets and prostitution create an unhealthy environment for Camden, but more importantly jeopardize the safety of our children. We will continue to suppress both the supply and demand of these illegal acts. By seizing the cars of violators, their ability to commit offenses is significantly reduced.”
In September 2013, the city announced it had undertaken a new initiative aimed at assisting women arrested for offering prostitution. Led by Seeds of Hope Ministries, the program allows a woman, as long as she has no outstanding warrants, to decide whether or not to go to jail or agree to go to a shelter and then rehabilitation. At present, no equivalent option has been developed for johns.
In October, 2015, Camden County Police Detectives conducted a street-level reverse sting operation to catch men soliciting prostituted women along Broadway, which Camden County Police described as “a mecca of prostitution” because of its easy access to a highway and large collection of abandoned buildings. The Police Department and the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office performed such stings about twice a month on Broadway, sometimes looking for prostituting people, other times focusing on the men soliciting them. Police usually caught about a dozen people during the operations, which can last up to five hours. In the October 2015 operation, two undercover female officers stood on each side of Broadway near Spruce, as a male officer posing as a pimp sat on the steps of a nearby building. The men they arrested were from all over the region, including the suburbs and the city of Camden, on lunch break from work, or just leaving the office. Some were professionals. Police had orders not to chase the men if they try to speed off in cars – it would be risky to passersby to give chase to enforce a disorderly persons charge of loitering to commit prostitution. But many of the men are caught quickly, some of whom are married and plead with officers not to tell their wives. Police said that the wives usually find out anyway. Police post the names online of any men they arrest, and tow their vehicles. For the prostituted women, a sergeant with the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office who helped start the operations two perviously, said the goal is to help them. The women are often addicted to heroin or other drugs, and are offered a chance to get off the streets and into rehab, if they don’t have outstanding warrants.
- Camden County Police Department
- Camden County Prosecutor’s Office
- Camden Police Department (disbanded)
- New Jersey State Police
- Services Empowering Rape Victims
- Seeds of Hope Ministries
- https://www.inquirer.com/philly/Sting_tries_to_clean_up_Camden_s_prostitution_alley.html (2015)
- https://www.courierpostonline.com/11-men-arrested-camden-prostitution-sweep (2015)
- “Camden Community Cops Make 1,000th Arrest”, Cherry Hill Courier-Post, September 11 2000.
- “Camden County Police Tout 97 Arrests; Majority Were Suburban Residents,” South Jersey Times, October 24 2013.
- “Camden Using New Vehicle Impound Law,” WKXW-FM 101.5, October 24 2013.
- “11 Men Arrested in Camden Prostitution Sweep,” Cherry Hill Courier-Post, September 25 2015.
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking
- “Camden, State Officials Work to End Prostitution”, Cherry Hill Courier-Post, October 16 2001.
- “13 Arrested in E. Camden Drug, Prostitution Sting”, Cherry Hill Courier-Post, November 30 2006.
- “Former Camden Police Officer Admits Planting Evidence, Preparing False Reports”, Gloucester County Times, June 29 2010.
- “22 Women Arrested in Camden Prostitution Sting”, Cherry Hill Courier-Post, May 15 2012.
- “Camden Prostitutes Struggle Between Addiction, Redemption”, Cherry Hill Courier-Post, July 16 2012.
- “Surge of Prostitutes Has Camden Looking for Answers”, Philadelphia Inquirer, October 14 2012.
- “In Camden, Prostitutes Pick Between Handcuffs and Helping Hand”, Philadelphia Inquirer, September 11 2013.
- “School Security Guard Paid Student for Sex in Camden, Police Say,” ABC/WPVI-TV 6, November 15 2013.
- https://www.nj.com/camden/2016/12/11_arrested_in_camden_county_prostitution_sting.html (2016)
- https://www.courierpostonline.com/story/news/2021/04/16/semaj-gilmore-camden-sex-trafficking-minor-mount-laurel (2021)
- NJSP: Three from Camden County Charged With Child Prostitution (2022)
- https://www.nj.com/camden/2022/01/trio-charged-with-sex-trafficking-of-missing-child-in-nj.html (2022)
- https://wpgtalkradio.com/njsp-three-from-camden-county-nj-charged-with-child-prostitution-human-trafficking/ (2022)
- https://www.fox29.com/news/3-arrested-in-child-trafficking-network-in-camden-county-official-say (2022)
- https://www.njpen.com/collingswood-lawnside-residents-charged-in-juvenile-sex-trafficking-sting (2022)
- https://www.northjersey.com/new-jersey-human-trafficking-invisible-issues (2022)
- https://www.nj.gov/education/safety/sandp/cwss/ht/ (2022)
- https://www.fox29.com/police-human-trafficking-ring-busted-in-new-jersey-victims-smuggled-from-mexico (2022)
- https://www.trentonian.com/human-trafficking-is-a-major-problem-in-new-jersey (2023)
- https://www.tapinto.net/nj-anti-trafficking-organization-wins-national-liberator-award (2023)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Torture Victims Lured to Slaying?”, Philadelphia Daily News, July 22 1986.
- “Strip’s Sordid History Has Legacy of Grisly Murders”, Philadelphia Daily News, March 12 1999.
- “A Long Road to Link 10 Killings”, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 29 1999.
- “Man Charged in Strangling of Camden Prostitute She Was Slain in ’97; The Suspect, from Montco, Is Also Being Investigated in Connection with 10 Killings in Three States,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 14 2001.
- “Witnesses Unreliable, Gunning’s Lawyer Says”, Philadelphia Inquirer, February 17 2001.
- “Man Gets 17-Year Term in Woman’s ’97 Slaying”, Cherry Hill Courier-Post, March 29 2003.
- “Police Searching for Rapist Targeting Prostitutes”, Cherry Hill Courier-Post, August 3 2012.
- “Cops Hunt Serial Prostitute Rapist in Camden”, WKXW 101.5 FM, August 6 2012.
- “Police Warn of Broadway Rapist,” Cherry Hill Courier-Post, June 29 2015.