Cranston, RI

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

Cranston is a city of roughly 83,000 residents, located just south of Providence in Providence County, Rhode Island, near Johnston and Warwick. Prostitution activity has been reported in the community for several decades. For example, in June, 2021, six massage parlors in Cranston were raided by police following complaints of a possible prostitution ring. The Cranston Police department confirmed to ABC6 that the complaints came from neighbors of the parlors, as well as people who went into the parlors thinking they were getting a legal massage.  One owner of a business next door to one of the illegal spas said that people involved in the sex trade come to her door, and that: “It’s beyond noticing, it’s interrupting my life.” Local prostitution activity has also been linked to cases of sex trafficking of minors and targeted assaults on women being exploited in commercial sex.

Among the means of addressing such local crimes have been the use of tactics targeting the underlying demand for commercial sex. In late January 2016, officers with the Cranston Police Department, in collaboration with officers from the Providence Police Department, Department of Homeland Security, and Rhode Island Human Trafficking Task Force, conducted a web sting targeting sex buyers. Law enforcement officers placed advertisements suggesting prostitution to, and arranged to meet the men who responded at an undisclosed location in Cranston. Thirteen individuals were arrested as a result; each was charged with “procurement of sexual conduct for a fee,” and his identity and arrest photo publicized in local media outlets. In a press release following the investigation, a CPD representative stated:

“The goal of the operation was geared towards the people, aka ‘johns,’ responding to escort advertisements; ultimately, attacking the demand side of prostitution… If there is no demand, there is no need for the service.”

In early March 2016, media outlets reported the completion of a second reverse sting in Cranston. The operation– which again targeted individuals soliciting commercial sex online– netted the arrests of 17 people, including 14 male sex buyers. A Providence woman was also arrested during the investigation and charged with “human trafficking of a 16-year-old girl.” The investigation was again a joint effort, this time involving CPD, DHS, and Providence, East Providence, Narragansett, Seekonk police, and officers with Rhode Island State Police. All of the arrestees’ names were publicized in press releases and news articles. In January, 2019, Cranston, Rhode Island Police Detectives orchestrated a sting operation targeting the “demand side” of prostitution. Posing as prostituted women, Detectives placed an advertisement on, a website known for promoting escort services. During the course of the investigation, Detectives arrested and charged thirteen men from Rhode Island and Massachusetts with procurement of sex for a fee.

Key Partners

  • Cranston Police Department
  • Rhode Island Human Trafficking Task Force
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • FBI
  • Rhode Island State Police
  • Providence Police Department
  • East Providence Police Department
  • Seekonk Police Department
  • Narragansett Police Department

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

  • “Man Gets 3 Years for Sex Attack on Prostitute; Kidnap Dismissed,” Providence Journal, October 15 1982.
  • “Police Probe ‘Serial’ Link in Reported Attempt to Strangle Woman with Bra,” Providence Journal, September 8 1984.
  • “Police Explore Possible Pattern in Attacks; The Pellet-Gun Shooting of a Central Falls Woman in Warwick on Monday Echoes Complaints in Warwick, Cranston and Providence, Detectives Say,” Providence Journal, January 19 1996.
State Rhode Island
Type City
Population 82566
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