Charlotte, NC

Tactics Used

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

Charlotte is a city in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. It is the largest city in the state, with a population of approximately 874,000 residents. The city also has the highest number of reported sex trafficking cases in North Carolina each year, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Street prostitution has been a persistent and visible problem in the city for over 20 years, and child sex trafficking has also been well-documented. Prostitution-related violence has also been reported.

In April 2021, within a two week span, two transgender women who were engaged in prostitution were found shot to death in hotel rooms. Both men involved were charged with murder, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.

In 2022, it was reported that the COVID epidemic resulted in increased sexual exploitation of children. To address these crimes, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) employs several tactics that aim to identify and apprehend sex buyers.

Police have conducted street-level reverse stings since at least 1991. Operations are still routinely conducted, using one or more undercover female officers as decoys. Once arrested, sex buyers may be subject to vehicle seizure if they attempted to solicit sex from a vehicle. They may also be served with SOAP (or Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution) orders, barring them from reentering areas of the city known for commercial sex sales (called Prostitution Exclusion Zones). If a convicted sex buyer reenters the area, they can be immediately arrested for trespassing.

The CMPD has also conducted web-based reverse stings. In one such sting in July 2009, the CMPD’s Narcotics and Vice Unit engaged with solicitors posting paid sex ads on Craigslist. Officers arranged to meet sex buyers and prostituted women in motels along the city’s I-77 corridor. A total of 15 offenders were arrested.

In addition to stringent punishments for arrestees, the CMPD also utilizes a handful of key deterrents in the hopes of discouraging men from offending in the first place. For example, if a vehicle is seen idling in or circling around a city block known for street prostitution, police may send a letter to the owner’s home address notifying the individual (and all other residents) that they were seen in the area. Similarly, the CMPD and city council began airing the names and photos of arrested sex buyers on a local TV access channel in late 2000, as a warning to other would-be offenders. While it is unclear whether the show (dubbed “Shame TV”) is still running, officers reported that, between 2000 and 2003, none of the individuals publicized were subsequently rearrested.

As of August 2005, some first-time offenders charged with solicitation in Charlotte or Mecklenburg County may be offered the opportunity to have their charges dropped in exchange for completing a 10-hour diversion program. Led by counselors at the McLeod Center, the “john school” requires arrestees to attend lectures and participate in discussions about addiction, sexually transmitted diseases, and respect for women. All attendees must also submit to a HIV test.

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred in the city. For example, in March 2003, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer quit the force after being charged in a sting with soliciting a prostituted woman. The man resigned immediately after his arrest. He was in uniform and driving a police cruiser when authorities say he solicited a sex act from a female State Bureau of Investigation agent posing as a prostituted person. The sex buyer had been a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer since May of 2000.

In October 2020, a former U.S. Army reservist was sentenced to 40 years in prison for six counts of sex trafficking and running a prostitution enterprise in Charlotte. According to court documents, the man, who had served in the U.S. Army as a reserve military policeman, operated an extensive sex trafficking enterprise in Charlotte  between 2012 and 2017. He recruited young women and one teenager by promising to provide them with a place to live and heroin or other opioids. He advertised the victims on Backpage.com for prostitution and collected the proceeds for profit. The man often assaulted his victims, and on one occasion used a pistol to strike one victim in the face, breaking her nose, according to court documents.

In October 2021, a 28-year-old female “Only Fans” content creator from Charlotte, as well as a 33-year-old man, were charged with promoting prostitution for profit and human trafficking of an adult victim. The arrests came after police received a 911 call from an 18-year-old victim involved.

 

Key Partners

  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department
  • Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office
  • McLeod Center
  • FBI
  • U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey and Interviews

John School:

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Identity Disclosure:

Loss of Employment:

SOAP Orders:

Letters:

Neighborhood Action:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State North Carolina
Type City
Population 873570
Location
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