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Clay County is located in northeast Florida, and is included in the Jacksonville, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area. The county has a population of roughly 215,000. Its county seat is Green Cove Springs, and its other largest communities are Orange Park and Keystone Heights. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the towns and unincorporated areas of the county for decades. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. For example, in February, 1990, a local Green Cove Springs man was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to operating a prostitution ring involving dozens of prostituted women in at least 12 Florida cities. He pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering and six counts of deriving support from prostitution in the operation of the ring that prosecutors said he ran from 1985 to 1988. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss 64 other charges. During a six-month investigation, authorities arrested 60 people who police said worked for the escort service. In 2004, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office arrested three women on prostitution charges after they offered sexual favors to undercover officers in exchange for money.The arrests happened at a spa off Park Avenue. Months earlier, a spa employee was arrested on similar charges. The prostitution arrests are the result of a four month investigation by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and the Orange Park Police Department. In 2013, fourteen women were arrested in a prostitution sting after complaints about three Orange Park massage parlors and other online escort services, according to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. Charges for the women, 18 to 57 years old, included prostitution, practicing massage therapy without a license and drugs. They were arrested in a joint undercover operation between the Clay and Jacksonville sheriff’s offices.
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, in March, 2016, a street-level operation was conducted in Clay County in response to complaints of lewd behavior up and down Black Creek Bike Trail. Eleven adult men were arrested, including a state Department of Children and Families worker. Used condoms and reported drug use near the public walkways in the park prompted multiple law enforcement agencies – including the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Orange Park Police Department and Green Cove Springs Police Department – to conduct the operation. In all, 10 men were taken into custody on charges related to lewd behavior and one is charged with battery.
In July, 2019, web-based prostitution and human trafficking sting resulted in the arrest of three male sex buyers in Orange Park. Sheriff deputies used social media to attract customers to the a hotel on Park Ave., following complaints of prostitution and human trafficking. All three men were charged with soliciting prostitution. According to the arrest report, undercover agents received cell phone calls for “donations of time” after placing an online notice. All three defendants were arrested after they agreed to an act and each paid $200.
The Florida State Legislature passed a bill that was signed into law in June, 2019, that creates a registry of convicted sex buyers and provides a publicly-accessible listing of their identities. The registry data includes the names, addresses and photos of people found guilty of soliciting sex from a prostituted person. The database is part of a broader piece of legislation aimed at combating human trafficking by lowering demand for commercial sex. If fully implemented, all communities in Florida would be included as using shaming as a tactic applied to arrested sex buyers.
- Clay County Sheriff’s Office
- Orange Park Police Department
- Green Cove Springs Police Department
Reverse Stings, Shaming:
- https://www.firstcoastnews.com/article/news/11-arrested-in-clay-county-park-for-lewd-behavior-police (2016)
- https://www.jacksonvillecriminaldefenseattorney-blog.com/clay-county-sting-leads-multiple-sex-related-charges-arrests/ (2016)
- New Florida Law Establishes Publicly-Accessible List of Convicted Sex Buyers (2019)
- https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-ne-florida-sex-offender-registry (2019)
- https://www.npr.org/podcasts/w-f-s-u-state-news-florida (2019)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- https://apnews.com/article/68 year old man sentenced statewide prostitution ring (1990)
- https://www.gainesville.com/article//20051008/News (2005)
- https://ufdcimages.uflib.ufl.edu/UF/sting results in at least 14 arrests (2013)
- https://www.jacksonville.com/prostitution-sting-nets-14-women-orange-park (2013)
- http://folioweekly.com/Bought-and-Abused,7750 (2013)
- http://www.criminallawyerinjax.com/clay-county-prostitution-sting-leads-to-16-arrests/ (2013)
- https://www.news4jax.com/5-women-arrested-on-prostitution-charges/ (2016)
- https://www.actionnewsjax.com/human-trafficking-victims-increased-50-percent-in-2017 (2018)
- https://www.wokv.com/news/local/orange-park-prostitution-sting (2019)