Coconino County, AZ

Tactics Used

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

Coconino County is a county in the north-central part of the Arizona. Its population is approximately 145,000. The county seat is Flagstaff, which contains about half the population within the county. Additionally, part of the city of Sedona is also in Coconino County. Problems associated with prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented in the county, and the neighboring Yavapai County region. Additional crimes occurring within prostitution events, such as illicit drug offenses, have also been well documented locally. Flagstaff Initiative Against Trafficking (FIAT) is a program housed by Northland Family Help Center.  It was created in August 2017 to pursue the objectives of deterring people from purchasing sex and providing resources for trafficking victims and survivors. In its first year, FIAT identified at least 63 adults and 32 youth in the Flagstaff area who had experienced trafficking.

Among the approaches used to address such problems have been the implementation of demand reduction tactics. Many of the operations have been regional in nature, including Flagstaff police but also collaboration with the Coconino and Yavapai County Sheriff’s Offices, the Prescott and Sedona Police Departments, and the FBI. Prosecution of cases is often led by the Coconino County District Attorney’s Office. For example, in March 2018, a multi-agency prostitution sting in Flagstaff resulted in the arrests of men who were charged with “child prostitution.” The Flagstaff Police Department, along with investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and Prescott Valley Police Department, made eight arrests during the one-day undercover investigation. The investigation focused on people paying to sexually abuse minors under the age of 16. Police noted that they took over 100 calls from would-be suspects, most of whom declined when they learned the age of the girls involved. According to Flagstaff Police, most of the men allegedly acknowledged that they were told over the phone by the “girl” they were coming to meet that she was 16 before they arrived at the hotel room used for the sting. A news report in January 2019, stated that during 2018, more than 600 individuals in the region had responded to decoy ads placed by police and/or attempted to purchase sex with a minor during several sting operations conducted by law enforcement agencies. The arrests stretched from Camp Verde to Flagstaff. A man arrested in Flagstaff, who was also a registered sex offender in Coconino County, had allegedly arranged to sexually abuse underage girls in exchange for money, but didn’t follow through. The identities of the arrested offenders were publicly disclosed.

Some arrests of sex buyers within the county are the product of investigations of allegations against real victims, and not through stings using undercover police decoys.  For example, in December, 2016, a man was arrested and a Coconino Superior Court Grand Jury indictment was later served on 60 year-old resident of Doney Park (a census-designated place, situated northeast of Flagstaff) for charges of “child prostitution,” sexual conduct with a minor, sexual abuse of a child, and sexual assault. The charges resulted from an investigation initiated from public tip to the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office. A grand jury indicted the man on eight counts related to incidents that allegedly occurred over the prior seven years. Coconino County Sheriff’s deputies identified several victims, all girls ranging in age from 13 to 17. Deputies said the man had met the victims through friendships and their families. The man’s identity was publicly disclosed.

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Arrest of Sex Buyer, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Related Crime in the Area:

State Arizona
Type County
Population 142254
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