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Cowlitz County is a county located in the U.S. state of Washington and has a population of approximately 116,000 residents. Its county seat is Kelso and its largest city is Longview. Instances of prostitution have been documented in the county. This activity and its ancillary crimes have generated complaints to local law enforcement from residents and businesses. For example, in 1984, a Longview couple was arrested after officers saw a flyer advertising their home as the “Party Palace.” According to reports, the house was described as a location for “swingers.” When an undercover officer was making a phone reservation, the husband allegedly promised the officer “good looking women and good sex” if he came. Upon arriving to the residence, the undercover officers were offered sex acts in exchange for money. Later that evening officers raided the home and arrested the couple on prostitution charges. The female offender was found guilty of prostitution (a misdemeanor) and the male offender was found guilty of second degree promoting prostitution (a felony). The couple was sentenced to five days in jail and the male offender was ordered to complete 200 hours of community service. Other serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market in Cowlitz County include child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation. In 2012 and 2013, the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Kalama man suspected of assaulting and threatening to kill prostituted women.
Efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex in the county have occurred. The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office has arrested sex buyers through alternative investigations and as the result of residential reports to local law enforcement. For example, in 2012 and 2013, the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office and the Kalama Police Department conducted multiple joint investigations into a local man suspected of patronizing prostituted people. According to reports and phone calls from concerned residents, the man is a repeat offender. Additionally, numerous prostituted woman have reported the sex buyer to police after being assaulted, threatened, and refused payment by the sex buyer.
Neighborhood action is another demand tactic implemented in Cowlitz County. For example, in 2016, a local group known as the “Punisher Squad,” was formed and began creating false social media accounts, posing as young girls in an effort to communicate with sexual predators. When the subject appeared at the predetermined meeting place to have a sexual encounter, the “Punisher Squad” would confront them. A typical sting operation consists of communicating with potential sex buyers and/or sexual exploiters, the group meeting the suspected offender in a predetermined location, confronting them of their crimes, and having the suspected offender report their crimes to the police. According to reports, at least three of these sting operations resulted in arrests.
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
- Kalama man allegedly hires prostitutes but doesn’t pay; chaos ensues (2012)
- Man gets 45 days for hiring, attacking prostitute (2013)
- Police arrest man for patronizing prostitute – again (2013)
- Woodland teacher suspended after prostitution sting arrests (1991)
- “Two Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” Longview Daily News, June 10 2012.
- Cops net 2 in prostitution sting (2012)
Neighborhood Action, Identity Disclosure:
- ‘Punisher Squad’ vigilante group forces man to report himself for ‘preying on a 13-year-old girl’ (2016)
- Level 1 Sex Offenders’ Names to be Released (2018)
- Kelso Man Plans to Publish Names of Cowlitz Level 1 Sex Offenders (2018)
- Level One Sex Offenders By County (2022)
Background on Local Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Related Violence:
- City councilman proposes prostitution investigation (1960)
- Longview couple found guilty of prostitution at ‘Party Palace’ (1984)
- Prostitution alleged (1985)
- Despite pleading guilty, woman says she’s innocent of prostitution charges (1998)
- “Prostitution,” Longview Daily News, May 30 2002.
- Kelso’s shady ladies linger on in town’s colorful history (2005)
- “Undercover Sting Nets Prostitution Arrest,” Longview Daily News, May 14 2010.
- “Prostitution Sting Sends Longview Woman to Jail,” Longview Daily News, July 6 2010.
- https://tdn.com/kalama-man-suspected-of-assaulting-prostitute-at-his-home (2012)
- “Sex Trafficking Suspect Arrested in Kelso,” Longview Daily News, January 23 2013.
- https://tdn.com/news/local/kalama-man-with-history-of-prostitution-related-crimes-arrested-again (2013)
- Woman Arrested on Suspicion of Prostitution (2016)
- https://tdn.com/two-longview-men-accused-of-inappropriate-contact-with-minors (2018)
Local Criminal Codes: