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Clark County is the southernmost county in the state of Washington and has a population of approximately 511,000 residents. Its largest city and county seat is Vancouver, WA. Due to the county’s location along the Interstate-5 corridor, a “stop” on several human trafficking and prostitution circuits, prostitution and sex trafficking have been significant and pervasive problems in the county for decades. These activities and their ancillary crimes have generated complaints to local law enforcement from residents and businesses. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, a serial killer who targeted prostituted women is believed to have killed at least six women in and around Vancouver. Among the more serious crimes associated with the county’s commercial sex market are child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation. For example, in 2022, a 34-year-old Vancouver, Washington man was found guilty by a federal jury of one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking, three counts of sex trafficking of a child, two counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion, and three counts of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity. According to reports, the offender had been sex trafficking multiple female juveniles in and around the Portland-Vancouver–Hillsboro Metropolitan Area by posting ads on websites known for prostitution and commercial sex.
To address these issues, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) regularly participates in the FBI’s annual investigation, Operation Cross Country, focused on combatting the demand for commercial sex and sex trafficking in the United States. These operations focus on identifying and rescuing victims of child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. In the 2010 annual operation, the FBI, working with more than a dozen other local and federal agencies in the Portland/Vancouver metro area including the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the Vancouver Police Department, recovered three female child sex trafficking victims during a series of sting operations that ran over the course three nights. In addition, local police arrested and charged nine individuals with sex trafficking/pimping, 19 adults with prostitution, and arrested five male sex buyers.
In 2018, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office participated in a web-based, prostitution and sex trafficking investigation in the greater Portland area. The multi-agency investigation, led by the Oregon State Police, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, and the Portland Police Bureau, conducted missions focused on reducing the demand for commercial sex at four different hotels in the greater Portland metro area. Participating agencies posted decoy ads on websites known for commercial sex and communicated with potential sex buyers, arranging a time and location to meet. As a result of the investigation, a total of thirty-seven individuals were arrested and charged with crimes related to prostitution. In Vancouver, police officers cited four men — aged 18, 22, 42, and 54 — for patronizing a prostitute. One of the men was also arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine.
In addition to reverse sting operations, sex buyers and sex traffickers have also been apprehended through alternative investigations or as a result of residential reports to local law enforcement. For example, in 2021, a 32-year-old man was arrested for allegedly soliciting two teenage girls, one of whom was a minor, for sex in the parking lot of Vancouver Mall. According to the affidavit, the pair of friends were sitting in the younger girls car when the offender reportedly entered the car without permission. He pulled out a stack of cash with his signature on it and asked the teenage girls to go back to a hotel room to engage in commercial sex with him. When the teenagers declined, he became upset and left. As he was leaving, the offender caressed the 18-year-old’s cheek. The investigation began after the teenage girls reported the incident to police. Video surveillance from the mall captured the offender entering the victim’s car. Police found the suspected sex buyer at a local Days Inn and arrested him for suspicion of commercial sex abuse of a minor, fourth-degree assault, second-degree vehicle prowling, and patronizing a prostitute. In December 2021, he was found guilty by a Clark County Superior Court jury for charges of commercial sex abuse of a minor, a felony, and fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation, a gross misdemeanor. In 2022, the offender was sentenced to 34 months in prison for the felony. He was sentenced to an additional 364 days for the gross misdemeanor charge, with that time suspended for two years. He was also required to register as a sex offender. The offender’s identity was included in reports by local media outlets.
Employment loss is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred in Clark County. For example, in 2012, an investigation into a deputy prosecutor with the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office was initiated after officials received complaints of domestic violence from the deputy’s ex-girlfriend. Although the allegations of domestic violence were found to be unfounded, officials discovered emails between the deputy prosecutor and prostituted women on his cellphone, which was seized during the initial investigation. According to reports, the offender had responded to ads on websites known for prostitution and had engaged in commercial sex. Through the email threads on the deputy prosecutor’s phone, officials discovered that he had solicited sex from at least four prostituted women. The suspected sex buyer initially denied allegations against him but eventually confessed to soliciting sex from four prostituted women, two in Vancouver and two in Portland. The confession was video taped by officials. Once learning of the allegations against the deputy prosecutor, the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office immediately placed him on administrative leave. The sex buyer resigned from his position with the prosecutor’s office on June 8th, 2012. To avoid conflict of interest, the case was prosecuted by the Skamania County Prosecutor’s Office. In August 2012, a Skamania County judge agreed to allow the former deputy prosecutor to complete the standard treatment for first-time misdemeanor offenders. In order to have the charge dismissed, the sex buyer was required to pay a $350 find, perform 24 hours of community service, receive counseling, and remain crime-free for a year.
Reverse Stings, Web-Based Reverse Stings, Cameras, Identity Disclosure:
- Juvenile prostitutes rescued in Vancouver (2009)
- Operation Cross Country V (2010)
- Operation Cross Country VIII (2014)
- Operation Cross Country IX (2015)
- Operation Cross Country X (2016)
- FBI Announces Results of National Child Sex Trafficking Operation (2018)
Sex Buyer Arrests, Cameras, Identity Disclosure:
- Man, 32, accused of approaching teens at Vancouver Mall, offering cash for sex (2021)
- Man sentenced to more than two years in prison for soliciting teens at Vancouver Mall (2022)
Sex Buyer Fired and/or Resigned Due to Arrest:
- “Ex-Prosecutor Accused of Soliciting Prostitutes”, Vancouver Columbian, July 24 2012.
- Ex-County Prosecutor Resolves Charge (2012)
- Deputy prosecutor charged with seeking prostitutes (2012)
- “Update: Ex-Prosecutor Resolves Prostitution-Related Case; Diversion Agreement-Includes Counseling, Community Service”, Vancouver Columbian, August 2 2012.
Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation:
- “Grand Jury Probe Cites Four Men”, Eugene Register-Guard, February 5 1959.
- “Man Pleads Guilty to Promoting Prostitution of Child”, Vancouver Columbian, March 19 2010.
- “Man Receives 10 Years in Child Prostitution Case”, Vancouver Columbian, April 23 2010.
- “Prostitution Sting Yields 14 Arrests, Two Rescues”, Vancouver Columbian, November 8 2010.
- “Child Sex Trafficking on Rise in Clark County”, Vancouver Columbian, November 15 2011.
- “Two Arrested in Teen Sex-Trafficking Case”, Vancouver Columbian, March 21 2012.
- “Two Plead Not Guilty in Teen Sex-Trafficking Case”, Vancouver Columbian, April 4 2012.
- “FBI: Sting Rescues 3 Local Children from Sex-Trafficking Ring”, Vancouver Columbian, June 26 2012.
- “Photo Gallery: Trafficked”, Vancouver Columbian, July 23 2012.
- “Vancouver Man Gets Jailtime in Imprisonment of Girl”, Vancouver Columbian, January 14 2013.
- “Vancouver Police Arrest Alleged Customer of Child Prostitute”, Vancouver Columbian, July 11 2013.
- “3 Kids Aided Locally in Child Prostitution Raids”, Vancouver Columbian, July 29 2013.
- “Vancouver Man Accused of Trafficking, Prostituting Teenage Girl”, Vancouver Columbian, September 4 2013.
- “Woman Gets 2 Years for Being Accomplice to Prostitution of Teens”, Vancouver Columbian, September 25 2013.
- “Teen Sentenced to 6-Plus Years for Pimping Two Girls”, Vancouver Columbian, September 26 2013.
- Vancouver Woman Sentenced to Four Years in Federal Prison for Transporting Minor for Sex (2014)
- “ATF Statement: Prostitution Sting Relied on Other Agencies”, Portland Oregonian, February 4 2014.
- “Vancouver Woman Gets 4 Years for Prostituting Girl”, Vancouver Columbian, September 15 2014.
- Vancouver Woman Sentenced to Four Years in Federal Prison for Transporting Minor for Sex (2014)
- ‘John’ Who Purchased 14-Year-Old for Commercial Sex Sentenced to Two Years in Federal Prison (2014)
- “Man Gets 185 Days in Prostitution Case”, Vancouver Columbian, October 2 2014.
- “Ex-Lake Oswego Cheerleader Admits Transporting Teen Schoolmate for Prostitution,” Portland Oregonian, June 16 2015.
- Child Sex Abuse Imagery Rising in Clark County (2020)
- Federal Jury Convicts Vancouver Man for Sex Trafficking of Minors
- https://www.columbian.com/service-providers-survivors-say-human-trafficking-underreported-in-clark-county/ (2023)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Pastor Charges Vice Flourishes”, Spokane Spokesman-Review, October 13 1951.
- Police Import Prostitutes (1974)
- Prostitution charges fail over illegal evidence (1974)
- “Taking It Off OK”, Spokane Spokesman-Review, July 19 1978.
- Many street prostitutes young men (1979)
- “Woman Alleged to Be Prostitution Madam”, Eugene Register-Guard, March 17 2000.
- “Alleged Prostitution Rings Shut Down”, Eugene Register-Guard, April 8 2000.
- “Street Sex Part 1: How ‘the Life’ Affects Neighborhood Livability”, East PDX News, October 2007.
- “Prostitution Sting Prompts Review”, Vancouver Columbian, February 12 2011.
- Prostitution Sting Prompts Review (2012)
- Drug, prostitution investigation leads to arrest of 19 in Vancouver (2015)
- “Portland Man Sentenced to 8 Months in Prostitution Case,” Vancouver Columbian, February 26 2016.
- On the Track: Sexual Exploitation along the I-5 Corridor (2017)
- Vancouver Man Convicted of Sex Trafficking Teens (2022)