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Corpus Christi is a city of approximately 325,000 residents, located on the southeast coast of Texas. Most of the city lies within Nueces County, but the boundaries also extend into Aransas, Kleberg, and San Patricio Counties. Instances of prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented in the city for decades. Corpus Christi police and public officials have reported that the city’s prostituted women and sex buyers may be connected to other crime issues, such as drug abuse and sex trafficking. Among the more serious issues associated with the city’s commercial sex market have been the targeted homicide of prostituted women and child sex trafficking. For example, in 2016, a 28-year-old Houston man was found guilty by a 94th District Court jury for child sex trafficking. According to reports, the Corpus Christi Police Department was alerted by the Houston Police Department in March of 2015 that the 28-year-old man had been sex trafficking a 15-year-old girl through Backpage.com, a website known for prostitution and sex trafficking. Through ads the offender posted of the victim online, investigators were able to track her to a motel on South Padre Island Drive. The sex trafficker was found guilty in 2016 for the continuous human trafficking of a minor and sentenced to 40 years in prison. This was the first time a human trafficking conviction occurred in the county. To address these crimes and other related problems, the city has created educational alternatives to address some of the core issues associated with the supply and demand of prostitution. For example, in programs that have been implemented intermittently in Corpus Christi, women arrested for prostitution (as well as male sex buyers) have been provided the opportunity to go into programs instead of serving jail time, or coupled with reduced jail time. The programs have involved sex and substance abuse education, and adhering to a geographic restraining (or SOAP) order restricting them from certain areas of the city, and HIV/AIDS testing.
Through 2012, the city deliberated about offering a rehabilitation and assistance program for prostituted women modeled after an initiative in Dallas. In Dallas, police and medical personnel would set up mobile clinics in areas with the highest prostitution rates. Instead of jail time, county health care officials and judges intend to provide screening for diseases and to offer options to find employment, education, and/or mental health care. By the middle of the following year, in July, 2013, a variation on the Dallas model had been implemented in Corpus Christi. Key differences in the latter program are that it is offered in a central location rather than being mobile, and contains a component for male sex buyers. The prostitution diversion program, entitled the Red Cord Initiative, is a collaboration of the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office, Corpus Christi Police Department, and the Coastal Bend Wellness Coalition. This program is intended to help women and men involved in prostitution disengage from their current environments and from commercial sex, providing services including substance abuse treatment, mental and physical health evaluations and treatment, job skills programs, education programs, and temporary housing – all provided by non-profit partners. Those suspected of either buying or selling sex are taken to a building downtown, where officials from the Coastal Bend Wellness Foundation and the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office immediately assess them and offer them help through the Red Cord Initiative.
Among the efforts to address prostitution and sex trafficking locally are those targeting consumer-level demand. The Corpus Christi Police Department has been conducting street-level reverse stings since at least 1983, if not earlier. Police concentrate those efforts in parts of the city with the most persistent complaints, including areas near Leopard Street, Brownlee Boulevard and South Port Avenue. Some operations have resulted in the arrest of over 50 sex buyers. For example, in 1983, officers conducted a two-day street-level reverse sting operation that resulted in the arrest of 53 male sex buyers. According to reports, one arrested male sex buyer had offered an undercover policewoman 40 cents in exchange for sex acts. Operations have also been conducted in response to complaints from residents and businesses in areas where rates of prostitution activity are particularly high. For example, in 1998, in response to an appeal from business owners and residents along Leopard Street, an area known for significant issues regarding prostitution and related offenses, law enforcement implemented new penalties for prostituted people and sex buyers arrested in the area. Police also stated that increased efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex would be implemented in the area. Arrested sex buyers were subjected to 12 months’ probation, 100 hours of community service, fined $100, required to complete a sex offender course, and place a bumper sticker on their cars that stated “Stop Sex Offenders.” In addition, police placed geographic restraining (or SOAP) order restricting individuals who had been arrested for prostitution related crimes from returning to the area. Participating agencies included the Corpus Christi Police Department in coordination with the Nueces County DA’s Office, and the County Community Supervision Department. A recent example of a reverse sting was a street-level operation occurring in March 2018 that resulted in the arrest of six sex buyers. Operations have been conducted at all hours of the day, using undercover female officers as decoys. For example, in June 2018, police directed a reverse sting on a Thursday afternoon in Corpus Christi’s North and West side neighborhoods. A female officer posed as a prostituted person and was solicited by men requesting sex acts in exchange for money. Seven men were arrested and charged with prostitution, a class B misdemeanor and that can be punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine. Six of the seven men arrested during that operation agreed to attend a voluntary prostitution diversion education program at their expense. The “john school” program educates men about the negative consequences of prostitution, circumstances that may lead someone to purchase sex, and the impact they have on the individual they attempt to solicit sex in exchange for money. If the men successfully complete the education program, their case could be dismissed by the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office.
The CCPD has released the names, ages, hometowns, and photos of arrested sex buyers to the public since 2007. Arrest records are currently available on the department’s official website, along with details describing arrested sex buyers’ vehicle descriptions. For example, a street-level reverse sting operation in March of 2021, ten male sex buyers were arrested in an anti-prostitution sting by the Corpus Christi Police Department’s Narcotics and Vice Investigations Division (NVID). Officials with the CCPD said the men were arrested after soliciting an undercover CCPD officer, posing as a prostituted person, for sex acts in exchange for money. The men arrested during the operation were required to attend the mandatory prostitution diversion education program at their expense. The fees raised from this program are then used to provide resources to assist women wanting to exit from prostitution. NVID Detectives were assisted by several law enforcement entities, as well as civilians with the Red Cord Program. The Red Cord Program, CCPD said, is a prostitution diversion program aimed to provide practical and emotional support for those involved in prostitution. The program is a collaboration between Coastal Bend Wellness Foundation, social service organizations, Nueces County District Attorney Office, and Corpus Christi Police Department. resulted in the arrest of 10 male sex buyers, all of who had their images and identities released by local law enforcement.
More recently, the CCPD has been conducting web-based reverse sting operations, in which undercover officers post decoy ads on websites known for commercial sex. Undercover officers communicate with suspected sex buyers, arranging a time, location, and price prior to meeting in person. Upon arrival to the predetermined location, sex buyers are arrested by undercover officials. The names and images of arrested sex buyers are frequently released by local law enforcement. For example, in September of 2021, the CCPD, the Nueces County DA’s Office, and the Red Cord Program participated in a web-based reverse sting that resulted in the arrest of six male sex buyers. All six male sex buyers arrested were charged with soliciting prostitution, a state jail felony, in Texas as of September 1st, 2021. Their identities of arrested sex buyers were released in reports by local media outlets. All six men were required to attend an education program for sex buyers (john school program), at their own expense, as part of their sentencing. The “john school” program was developed in 2018 and offered to arrested sex buyers in exchange for a reduced sentence (or dismissal of charges prior to the felony law change) and a $500 fee. The program aims to educate men about the negative consequences of prostitution, circumstances that may lead someone to purchase sex, and the impact they have on the individual they attempt to solicit sex in exchange for money. The John School is provided by Coastal Bend Wellness. The money generated by the fees that men pay for the John School is used to help those involved in prostitution (Red Cord Program) get access to help for mental abuse, housing, health care and other things needed to exit sexual exploitation.
In addition to reverse stings, various other demand reduction tactics have been deployed in the county such as, public education. For example, in 2001, the Crime Patrol and Prevention District approved spending $3,010 to produce public service announcement aimed at local sex buyers. The ads were focused on education potential sex buyers about the dangers of commercial sex and STDs.
Street-Level Reverse Stings with Shaming:
- 53 jailed for prostitution (1983)
- City prostitutes are changing tactics (1985)
- 31 are jailed here in prostitution crackdown (1987)
- Police arrest 5 men in prostitution sting (1989)
- Crackdown on Prostitution planned (1998)
- “Prostitution Sting Nets Cops 16 Arrests”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, July 8 2000.
- Police arrest 13 men in prostitution investigation (2002)
- “Police May Post Photos of Johns”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, September 2 2007.
- “Sexual Offenses Will Be Posted”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, October 16 2007.
- “Civilians Ease Police Loads by Investigating”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, April 6 2008.
- “Prostitution Sting Yields Nine Arrests”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, October 5 2010.
- “Seven Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Police Blotter, Corpus Christi Police Department, May 24 2012.
- “Corpus Christi Police Arrest Three Men in Prostitution Sting,” ABC/KIII-TV 3, December 19 2014.
- “Corpus Christi police arrest six johns during prostitution sting operation.” Caller Times, March 30, 2018.
- http://www.kristv.com/story/38488190/ccpd-seven-men-arrested-during-prostitution-sting (June 2018)
- https://www.caller.com/story/news/crime/2018/06/22/corpus-christi-police-nab-7-men-prostitution-sting-north-west-side/ (June 2018)
- https://www.kiiitv.com/article/news/local/ten-men-arrested-in-anti-prostitution-sting-by-corpus-christi-police (2021)
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- “Corpus Christi Police Target Prostitution”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, January 25 2010.
- “Police Use Computer for Prostitution Sting”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, April 19 2010.
- Ten men arrested in anti-prostitution sting by Corpus Christi Police (2021)
- Nine men arrested in CCPD anti-prostitution sting (2021)
- CCPD prostitution sting leads to six arrests (2021)
- https://www.caller.com/story/news/2021/09/23/ccpd-prostitution-sting-leads-six-arrests/5829199001/ (2021)
- https://ccpdblotter.com/2021/09/23/nvid-prostitution-sting-nets-six-arrests/ (2021)
- https://ccpdblotter.com/2022/02/16/nvid-prostitution-sting-nets-six-arrests-2/ (2022)
- http://www.kristv.com/story/ccpd-seven-men-arrested-during-prostitution-sting (2018)
- ttps://www.caller.com/story/news/crime/2018/06/22/corpus-christi-police-nab-7-men-prostitution-sting-north-west-side/ (2018)
- https://www.caller.com/story/news/crime/2018/03/30/corpus-christi-police-arrest-six-johns-during-prostitution-sting-operation (2018)
- CCPD prostitution sting leads to six arrests (2021)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Area Man Held in Pandering,” Victoria Advocate, August 10 1963.
- “Sex-Slaying Suspect Henley May Get Third Trial,” Lakeland Ledger, June 24 1979.
- “Former NBA Star Alvin Robertson on Sex Charges After Kidnapped Girl, 14, Forced into Prostitution and Stripping”, Daily Mail (U.K.), February 28 2010.
- “Alleged Sex-Trade Victim Vanishes”, San Antonio Express-News, March 17 2010.
- “Group Details Horror of South Texas Human Sex Trafficking”, NBC/KRIS-TV 6, June 11 2010.
- “Legislature Calls for Tougher Trafficking Laws”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, January 30 2011.
- “Jury Convicts San Antonio Man for Sex Trafficking of Minors”, ABC/KSAT-TV 12, July 23 2014.
- “Miles Sentenced to 40 Years for Human Trafficking,” ABC/KIII-TV 3, August 1 2016.
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Survivor of Health Spa Murders Clings to Life”, Bonham Daily Favorite, September 10 1981.
- “Police Confirm Murder Victims All Prostitutes”, NBC/KRIS-TV 6, March 31 2010.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Oldest Profession Changes Faces,” Victoria Advocate, August 19 1972.
- “Witnesses Threatened in Motorcycle Gang Probe,” Ellensburg Daily Record, February 13 1979.
- “Elderly Caller Finally Gets a Date– With His Arresting Officer”, Albany Herald, April 8 1982.
- “S. Texas Police Say Bikini-Clad Maids Really a Front for Prostitution Ring”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 24 1994.
- “Police Blotter: 07.03.05”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, July 3 2005.
- “Prostitution Sting Results in 15 Arrests”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, September 21 2006.
- “Weed and Seed Gets $200k Grant”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, July 18 2007.
- “Prostitutes Hear of a Different Life”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, September 30 2007.
- “CCPD: Thirty Prostitution Arrests in 30 Days”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, February 18 2010.
- “Police Sting Leads to Seven Arrests”, NBC/KRIS-TV 6, October 20 2010.
- “Police: Seven Arrested During Prostitution Operation”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, April 1 2011.
- “Corpus Christ Police Arrest Nine Women Thursday After Complaints of Prostitution”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, August 12 2011.
- “Complaints of Prostitution, Lead to Arrest”, Police Blotter, Corpus Christi Police Department, September 7 2011.
- “Sting Uncovers Prostitution Ring”, Police Blotter, Corpus Christi Police Department, October 14 2011.
- “Corpus Christi Police Arrest 11 Suspected ‘Janes’ in Prostitution Sting”, NBC/KRIS-TV 6, May 31 2012.
- “Corpus Christi Police Sting Nets 10 Women for Prostitution”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, July 2 2012.
- “10 Arrested During Corpus Christi Prostitution Sting”, NBC/KRIS-TV 6, October 18 2012.
- “Corpus Christi Police Mull Program to Treat Suspected Prostitutes Rather than Jail Them”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, December 9 2012.
- “Editorial: A Better Solution to Prostitution than Prosecution”, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, December 12 2012.
- “Community Aids in Four Prostitution Arrests,” ABC/KIII-TV 3, January 29 2016.
- https://www.facebook.com/CorpusChristiPD/posts/an-anti-prostitution-sting (2020)
- https://www.kristv.com/news/local-news/ccpd-two-women-arrested-in-connection-to-prostitution-sting (2021)
- https://www.kztv10.com/news/local-news/ccpd-arrests-and-charges-four-women-with-prostitution (2021)
- https://www.kiiitv.com/article/news/crime/women-arrested-for-prostitution (2021)