Colchester, VT

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

Colchester is a town in Chittenden County, Vermont, that has a population of about 17,500. It borders Burlington, Vermont’s most populous city.  Prostitution and sex trafficking are known to be widespread in the city and surrounding areas, and have been for decades. For example, in November 1981 a man was arrested and charged with operating a local prostitution ring under the guise of an escort service. The Chittenden County State’s Attorney reportedly considered whether to release the names of more than 20 men who appeared on a “client list” and may have patronized the alleged prostitution ring. Four women were also cited into court on prostitution charges, and police seized a list of more than 20 clients, some of whom reportedly were well-known in the Burlington area. A number of human trafficking investigations across Vermont between 2013 and 2016 — including in Burlington, Shelburne, Colchester, Williston, Rutland, and Bennington — involved massage spas and parlors serving as fronts for illegal activity. Authorities said that traffickers would bring young women to Vermont from overseas or other states and force them into commercial sex.  A federal grant application submitted in 2018 by the statewide Human Trafficking Task Force showed that the number of victims who received services in Vermont jumped by almost 400 percent between 2015 and 2017, from 31 to 150 people. The number of sex trafficking investigations doubled in that same period of time, from 31 to 64. In 2018, two Chinese citizens were arrested and accused of running a prostitution and sex trafficking ring in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Federal authorities said Chinese women were forced to meet men for paid sex. The married couple used social media to recruit an unknown number of Chinese women, allegedly helping them obtain U.S. visas and flying them from China to airports across the U.S. The couple allegedly promised the women, who spoke little to no English, hundreds of dollars a day, and then advertised sex with them on BackPage.com. They allegedly transported the women to hotels across northern New England, including South Burlington and Colchester, Vermont. The pair faced several felony charges, including sex trafficking.

To address the demand for commercial sex that drives all prostitution and sex trafficking, sex buyer arrests, loss of employment, and public disclosure of identities have occurred in Colchester.  For example, a Colchester police dispatcher was arrested and subsequently fired over allegations that he told a woman he had solicited for prostitution that federal agents were monitoring her home.  The man appeared in Vermont Superior Court and pleaded not guilty to prohibited acts and obstruction of justice. The judge imposed one condition as the defendant was allowed to remain free — that he have no contact with the woman he solicited. The man had worked as a police dispatcher since March 2001, and was fired in September, 2017 following an internal investigation by Colchester Police Department. He had been on administrative leave for about a week during the investigation, and the Colchester Police Chief she said the department had sufficient cause to terminate the man’s employment following its internal probe. According to an affidavit written by Vermont State Police, the woman told police that the suspect had contacted her through Facebook after seeing her advertisement on backpage.com. The woman told police the man paid her $100 in exchange for a sex act. The woman said the suspect disclosed that her home was being watched by federal authorities and that neighbors across the street were taking license plate numbers and were calling the Colchester police. Police also later interviewed the man, who confirmed that the woman had performed a sex act during their meeting. Police said he later changed his story and said that he had paid the woman between $40 and $60 for the sex act.  The Chittenden County Deputy State’s Attorney said that the disclosure of the existence of the investigation is, in fact, impeding it. If found guilty, the man faced up to one year in prison and $100 in fines for prohibited acts and up to 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines for obstruction of justice.

 

Key Partners

  • Colchester Police Department
  • Chittenden County Deputy State’s Attorney
  • Vermont State Police

Key Sources

Sex Buyer Arrests, Employment Loss, and Public Disclosure:

Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:

State Vermont
Type City
Population 17524
Location
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