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Cumberland County is a county of approximately 260,000 residents in western Pennsylvania and its county seat is Carlisle, PA. Cumberland County is included in the Harrisburg–Carlisle, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area. The county is known to have been on regional sex trafficking circuits since the 1980s, if not before, and local prostitution has been a persistent problem, particularly along interstate trucking routes. Situated along I-81, the area has been described as “an artery for drug and sex trafficking,” and community residents have reported spikes in prostitution and sex trafficking in and around the area’s four major truck stops. These four truck stops make up what is known as “Miracle Mile” – a stretch of highways that connect Interstate 81 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. In 2004, local truck stop representatives joined local law enforcement agencies to announce increased enforcement to combat ongoing problems with prostitution in Middlesex Township, Carlisle, Hampden Township, West Hanover Township, and nearby communities in Cumberland and Dauphin counties. Reports of violence against individuals engaging in commercial sex, targeted homicide of prostituted persons, and sexual assault/rape of prostituted persons have been documented to occur as a result of prostitution-related activity at these trucks stops. The need for enhanced law enforcement regarding prostitution in the county occurred after the body of a 44-year-old woman was spotted by a motorist along the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Plainfield, PA. Investigators throughout the country added the woman’s name to a list of more than 30 women who were victims to what they believe is a ring of truckers who have targeted and killed women involved in prostitution. One of the other victims was last seen alive at the Middlesex truck stop area where she was engaging in prostitution. In February 2004, a 16-year-old girl was found alive along the Pennsylvania Turnpike near the Middlesex truck stops, around mile marker 232 in Silver Spring Township. The victim acknowledged she was engaged in prostitution and her assailant was a man who she believed would pay for sex acts. Police believe that she was also a victim of the large-scale sex trafficking ring operating in the area during that time.
Enforcement of laws against purchasing sex have been unevenly enforced, at times. For example, in July 2020, a man admitted in court to committing the crime of purchasing prostitution, but was granted immunity and was not charged. The man testified that he paid $300 for sex on at least two occasions, and that the woman stole $20,000 that he kept in a drawer. He then provided a written statement about what happened to the Upper Allen Township Police Department. The Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office later gave him immunity, but the woman was charged with theft and prostitution, with law enforcement publicizing her arrest and posting her mugshot online.
The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office has combated the consumer demand for prostitution with reverse stings and disclosing the identities of arrested sex buyers since the early 2000s, if not earlier. These operations are often conducted in collaboration with other local law enforcement agencies. For example, in 2004, the Middlesex Township Police Department, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, the Drug Task Force, and the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office collaborated to conduct a street-level reverse sting operation at a Middlesex truck stop that resulted in the arrest of three male sex buyers. According to reports, the operation was conducted in response to the recent string of murders of prostituted women along “Miracle Mile.” The identities and ages of arrested sex buyers were included in reports by local media outlets. In 2006, an additional street-level reverse sting operation was conducted that resulted in the arrest of five male sex buyers, who identities were included in reports by local media outlets.
In addition to street-level reverse sting operations, web-based reverse stings have been conducted in the county. For example, in June 2022, the Cumberland County District Attorney announced the start of a new Human Trafficking enforcement initiative aimed at arresting and prosecuting those who solicit prostitution or engage in other forms of sexual exploitation. Members of the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Criminal Investigation Division teamed with Upper Allen Township Police and members of the county Sheriff’s Office to engage in an enforcement effort, codenamed Operation Impact Demand. Six men were arrested and charged with solicitation of prostitution, and their photos and identifiers were publicly disclosed. The defendants allegedly responded to an online advertisement for a female “escort,” made arrangements to meet at a hotel, and offered payment for sex. They were taken into custody and transported to the Cumberland County Prison for processing. In April, 2023, another 11 men were arrested in a similar operaiton.
Loss of employment is also a consequence of buying sex in the county. For example, In 2004, a Middlesex patrol officer was arrested on allegations that rather than charging women arrested for prostitution at local truck stops, “he would engage in oral and/or vaginal sex with them.” To apprehend the officer in question, the Middlesex Township Police Department, the Cumberland County Sherriff’s Office, and a Dauphin County Probation Officer collaborated to conduct a reverse sting operation in which the probation officer posed as a prostituted woman and an additional undercover operative posed as a male sex buyer at a Middlesex Township motel. The room had been wired for both audio and video. The officer in question was directed by county dispatch to respond to the motel to “investigate a blonde running around the hallway in her panties and her bra.” Upon arriving to the hotel room, the officer in question asked the “male sex buyer” to step out into the hallway and explain how he met the “prostituted woman.” After the decoy male sex buyer explained his encounter with the “prostituted woman,” the officer told him to leave. When the undercover probation officer offered the officer in question oral sex, he replied “Actually I think I want a little more. A lot more.” When he began to undress, the undercover probation officer arrested the Middlesex Township patrol officer. Upon further investigation, more victims came forward to police. The sex buyer was formally charged with three counts of rape, two counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, three counts of sexual assault, three counts of prostitution, four counts of bribery in official and political matters, two counts of official oppression, two counts of obstructing administration of law or other governmental function, two counts of tampering with public records, and one count of criminal attempt to [sic] prostitution. He was acquitted of all charges except for two counts of bribery and was sentenced to serve not less than 9 nor more than 23 months in the county prison on one count and to serve a consecutive period of intermediate punishment on the other. The corporal, a member of the Middlesex force for 12 years, was suspended without pay but was eventually fired from the force. His identity and image were included in news reports by local media outlets.
In 2009, a Wormleysburg Borough councilman, Commissioner of the West Shore Bureau of Fire, the Lemoyne code enforcement officer, and Lemoyne Middle School crossing guard was arrested for allegedly sexually exploiting four teenage boys in exchange for money. Upon further investigation it was discovered that the offender met the teenage boys at Lemoyne Middle School through his duties as a crossing guard, all four wanted to be junior fire fighters. The investigation was initiated after the West Shore Regional Police Department received a report from one of the victim’s mother that the offender had sexually assaulted her son at the local fire station. The offender was found to have paid at least one of the victims $20 after each encounter during the summer of 2007. The victim stated that he was sexually abused five to ten times in exchange throughout that summer. The offender was arrested in 2009 on three counts each of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, corruption of a minor, indecent assault, statutory sexual assault and unlawful contact with a minor. He was also charged with a single count of patronizing a prostitute. He was transported to the Cumberland County Prison in lieu of a $250,000 bond with a list of the following conditions if he had made bail:
- Absolutely no contact with any of the boys.
- No contact or visitation with any child or minor under 18 years old unless supervised by a third person 21 years or older or approved by Cumberland County Children and Youth Services.
- May not while engaged in any activity related to the West Shore Bureau of Fire oversee direct or have any contact with any juvenile under the age of 18 nor participate in any recruiting and/or selection of any members who might make applications to the West Shore Bureau of Fire
- Shall not engage in any crossing guard duties which might place him in contact with young children
- Shall not return to his home address until the residence is not occupied by any child or minor under 18 years old
- Prior to being released on bail, the defendant shall provide sufficient proof of an alternate place of residence other than that of his home address.
In 2010, he was sentenced to sentenced to 15-30 years in state prison. In addition to sentencing, the offender was indefinitely suspended from his position on the Wormleysburg’s Borough Council, Commissioner of the West Shore Bureau of Fire, the Lemoyne code enforcement officer, and a Lemoyne Middle School crossing guard. He had served on Wormleysburg’s Borough Council since being appointed to fill a vacant seat in 1991. He served as Wormleysburg’s fire chief for more than 25 years before becoming the commissioner of the West Shore Bureau of Fire when Wormleysburg and Lemoyne’s fire companies merged in 1999. His identity and image were included in reports by local media outlets.
- Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office
- Drug Task Force
- Cumberland County Common Pleas Court
- Upper Allen Police Department
- Lower Allen Police Department
- Middlesex Township Police Department
- Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office
- West Shore Regional Police Department
- West Shore Bureau of Fire
- Wormleysburg’s Borough Council
- Borough of Lemoyne
- Lemoyne Middle School
Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- Prostitution sting nets 3 (2004)
- https://cumberlink.com/news/3-charged-with-prostitution/article (2004)
- 1 arrest in hooker sting (2004)
- Prostitution sting nets arrests (2005)
- Prostitution sting leads to 4 arrests (2005)
- 3 men arrested in prostitution sting (2005)
- 5 arrested in prostitution sting (2006)
- http://www.toledoblade.com/Police-stings-curtail-prostitution-at-Harrisburg-area-truck-stops.html (2006)
- Prostitution stings effective, DA says (2008)
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.fox43.com/cumberland-county-human-trafficking-sting-six-arrests (2022)
- https://www.abc27.com/cumberland-county-announces-first-arrests-in-new-initiative-to-stop-human-trafficking/ (2022)
- https://cumberland.crimewatchpa.com/da-announces-2nd-round-arrests-part-human-trafficking-initiative (2022)
- https://www.abc27.com/eleven-men-charged-in-cumberland-county-prostitution-sting/ (2023)
Employment Loss, Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
- “Officer Ordered to Trial on Rape, Assault Charges”, Harrisburg Patriot-News, July 13 2004.
- “Judge Deliberates Fate of Police Corporal Caught in Sting”, The Sentinel News, March 11 2005.
- https://cumberlink.com/news/ex-cop-goes-to-jail/article (2005)
- “Verdicts Will Cost Officer His Badge”, Harrisburg Patriot-News, March 12 2005.
- COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee, v. Kenny Ray JOHNSON, Appellant. (2006)
- https://cumberlink.com/news/former-middlesex-cop-goes-to-jail-for-bribery/article (2007)
- Former Middlesex cop goes to jail for bribery (2007)
- Area official faces sex charges (2009)
- Lemoyne Borough Council votes to fill code enforcement and zoning position (2009)
- Alleged confession challenged in molestation case against ex-Wormleysburg Councilman Ron Frank (2009)
- Longtime Wormleysburg councilman arrested on charges he had sex with 3 teen boys (2009)
- West Shore Bureau of Fire reassigns duties of commissioner accused of sex crimes (2009)
- Judge rules alleged confession can be used in Ron Frank molestation case (2010)
- Friday trial set for former Wormleysburg councilman (2010)
- Ex-Wormleysburg Councilman Ron Frank convicted of having sex with teen boys (2010)
- Frank sentenced to state prison (2010)
- Ex-Wormleysburg councilman sentenced in sexual assault case (2010)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- Woman arrested for prostitution (1991)
- CB drug sting nets 8 (1991)
- Prostitution sting nets 57 arrests (1996)
- 1 arrest in hooker sting (2004)
- DA: “Don’t do it here” (2004)
- Prostitution stings effective, DA says (2008)
- I-81: Highway an artery for drug, sex trafficking (2011)
- “I-81 Offers Law-Enforcement Challenges”, Lebanon Daily News, January 17 2011.
- http://cumberlink.com/human-trafficking-still-a-problem/ (2013)
- http://cumberlink.com/truckers-educated-about-human-trafficking/ (2013)
- https://www.fox43.com/two-women-arrested-for-prostitution-in-camp-hill( 2013)
- Chief: A matter of training (2015)
- https://local21news.com/pair-charged-for-promoting-prostitution-ring-involving-minors-cumberland-hotel (2016)
- https://cseinstitute.org/cumberland-county-targets-arrests-prostituted-persons-prostitution-sting/ (2016)
- https://www.ydr.com/cumberland-county-prostitution-case-investigation/ (2020)
- https://www.ydr.com/cumberland-county-prostitution-case-follow-up-investigation/ (2020)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Commercial Sex:
- Arrest of a trucker may help solve serial murders (2004)
- Murder linked to others (2004)
- “Toledoan Linked to Prostitution Ring; Indictment Alleges Multistate Operation that Recruited Underage Girls”, Toledo Blade, November 19 2005.
- At what point do they stop? (2019)