Delaware County, PA, is situated roughly equidistant between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware in southeast Pennsylvania. With a population of about 565,000 it is the fifth most populous county in Pennsylvania. Its government seat is the city of Chester. Prostitution has posed considerable problems in the county for years. For example, in June, 2012 a joint task force with investigators from the Pennsylvania State Police, the FBI, the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office and Tinicum Police conducted the operation targeting prostitution in township hotels and motels. The investigation began earlier this year with a report of shots fired in a hotel near the Philadelphia International Airport. That investigation prompted police to take a closer look at prostitution in the area, and five women and one man were charged with prostitution and disorderly conduct.
In April, 2017 a massive prostitution sting in Delaware County resulted in the arrests of five women in one night. Deputies found them on a website that was supposed to be barred from posting sex ads. Undercover deputies with The Delaware County Sheriffs Office said it only takes seconds to find prostitutes online and many will travel from anywhere in central Indiana to Muncie to make some money and often times, buy drugs. At least two cases of child sex trafficking has been documented in Chester. In one instance, in May 2013, two city residents were charged with recruiting and pimping young women (at least one of whom was under the age of 18) in nearby Philadelphia using online advertisements. In a federal indictment, the traffickers were alleged to have “engaged in acts of physical violence and threats of physical harm to maintain the participation of females in their prostitution business. They [were] charged with sex trafficking of a minor and sex trafficking by force.”
To reduce commercial sex activity, the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office has worked with local police to conduct reverse stings since at least 1994. Stings are conducted at street level, using a female undercover officer as a decoy. The operations have at times been large in scale, netting as many as 38 johns in a single investigation. To deter other would-be sex buyers, arrestees’ names and other identifying information are also released to the public.
In July, 2019 the annual report released by the Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Pennsylvania at Villanova University (Charles Widger School of Law) presented county-level data on arrests for purchasing sex in Pennsylvania (the state has separate statutes for buying versus selling sex) during calendar year 2018. The report’s data comes from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, and during 2018 there were three arrested sex buyers in Delaware County that were charged under the statute for purchasing sex (18 Pa.C.S. § 5902(e)). It is important to note that there may have been larger numbers of arrested sex buyers, since some cities and counties may choose to handle such cases by issuing civil citations for violating prostitution ordinances in local courts or magistrate’s offices, rather than charging with a state criminal offenses in district courts.
- Delaware County Sheriff’s Office
- Chester Police Department
- Tinicum Police Department
- Pennsylvania State Police
- Street-Level Reverse Stings with Shaming:
- “Busted Chester Hits Prostitution”, Delaware County Daily Times, December 2 1994.
- “‘Operation Night Life’ Tally Totals 38 Arrests; Undercover Operation Targets Chester Prostitution”, Delaware County Daily Times, December 4 1994.
- “The Customers Are Guilty, Too; Editorial”, Delaware County Daily Times, December 6 1994.
- “9 More Busted for Vice”, Delaware County Daily Times, December 23 1994.
- “Nine Busted in Decoy Hooker Sting”, Delaware County Daily Times, July 10 1997.
- “Undercover Sting Nets Six Arrests”, Delaware County Daily Times, August 8 2006.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets Eight Arrests in Chester”, Delaware County Daily Times, September 1 2008.
- https://cseinstitute.org/Report on Commercial Sexual Exploitation In PA Spring-2019-Villanova (2019)
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Indictment Charges Individuals with Sex Trafficking Females”, Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, May 1 2013.
- “Unexpected Guilty Plea in Sex Trafficking Case”, CBS/KYW-TV 3, July 27 2014.
- “Judge Sends Chester Woman to Prison for 15 Years for Sex Trafficking Females”, Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, October 22 2014.
- “Teen Prostitute: ‘I Felt Like a Slave,’” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 12 2016.
- “West Oak Lane Man Convicted of Rape and Sex Trafficking a Minor,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 17 2016.
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Crime Panel Looks at Chester’s Troubles”, Philadelphia Daily News, December 18 1988.
- “In Chester, Sex for Cocaine Brings Disease and Despair”, Philadelphia Daily News, August 10 1989.
- https://6abc.com/archive/8707163/ (2012)
- https://www.delcotimes.com/news/six-face-charges-in-crackdown-on-prostitution-at-tinicum-airport (2012)