Chatham County, GA

Tactics Used

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

Chatham County is located in southeast Georgia, along the Interstate 95 corridor, and includes coastal areas.  The county seat and largest city is Savannah. Prostitution and sex trafficking are known to occur in the communities and other area within the county, and to produce serious consequences. Police and community members have identified as particularly problematic indoor prostitution and sex trafficking in hotels situated along the Interstate 95 corridor, and advertised on websites such as Backpage.com. An officer from the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department’s Tactical Reaction and Prevention Unit (one of the key partners for reverse stings that have been conducted in the city), said they have had many prostituted women in the area robbed and assaulted by johns. According to the SCMPD, about 10 percent of all street robberies in the department’s jurisdiction involved a customer robbing a prostituted woman, and in one precinct, half of all robberies involved prostitutes being mugged at hotels and motels.

Federal law enforcement, working in partnership with city and county officials in the greater Savannah metropolitan area, have also linked local commercial sex activity to regional and international sex trafficking circuits using Interstate 95, and interstate prostitution and sex trafficking rings based in Savannah. For example, in January 2013, a federal indictment charged 12 defendants for their roles in an alleged sex trafficking and prostitution ring based in Georgia whose operations stretched to Florida and the Carolinas. The federal charges followed a lengthy investigation called “Operation Dark Night,” which was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). In addition to a number of searches and arrests, federal authorities rescued 11 women alleged to have been forced into prostitution (trafficked).

Among the problems noted by police as reported in news outlets are at least one prostituted person having been charged with engaging in commercial sex while knowingly being infected with HIV, and the SCMPD having “tracked 10 percent of the street robberies reported jurisdiction-wide and half of all robberies in the Southside Precinct to hold-ups of prostitutes in area hotels and motels.” Prostitution and crimes connected with it present liability issues for hotels, and the SCMPD has attempted to conduct meetings with hotel owners to educate them and seek cooperation in investigations and enforcement actions. In another case, at least three local firefighters were charged with “cruelty to the infirm and principal to prostitution.” The case involved two mentally challenged men who frequently visited the fire station. The firefighters allegedly provided the visitors with alcohol and watched as one of the men had sex with a woman who was paid to perform sex acts with the disabled man. A serial killer who targeted prostituted women also has operated in the city.

Notably, the SCMPD’s responses to prostitution and sex trafficking in Pooler and the surrounding area include efforts to combat demand. For example, a two-day, web-based reverse sting was conducted in October 2013 that resulted in the arrest of 13 johns. The operation focused on prostitution services advertised on Backpage.com, that occur in hotels and motels along Interstate 95 from the Highway 204 exit in Savannah through exits in Garden City, Port Wentworth and Pooler.  For the operation, SCMPD officers posted a decoy advertisement soliciting sex, and arranged to meet the sex buyers who responded in hotels and motels in the four communities.  The first day of the operation focused on the midtown area of Savannah and the second was directed toward hotels near Interstate 95 exits in Savannah, Pooler, Garden City and Port Wentworth. Police press releases and news reports did not state the number of john arrests that occurred in each of the separate cities. The names and ages of the arrested sex buyers were, however, released to news outlets. In their efforts, the SCMPD was assisted by several other law enforcement agencies, including: their own Savannah Area Regional Intelligence Center (SARIC), and Crime Suppression Units from the West Chatham and Southside Precincts; the Pooler, Garden City and Port Wentworth Police Departments; the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations.

 

Key Partners

  • Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department
    • Savannah Area Regional Intelligence Center (SARIC)
    • Crime Suppression Units from West Chatham and Southside precincts
  • Pooler Police Department
  • Garden City Police Department
  • Port Wentworth Police Department
  • Georgia Bureau of Investigation
  • Homeland Security Investigations (Department of Homeland Security)

 

Key Sources

Web Stings and Shaming:

 

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

 

 

Shaming:

 

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

 

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

 

State Georgia
Type County
Population 290501
Location
Comments are closed.