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Denham Springs is a city of about 9,000 residents in Livingston Parish, located about 10 miles east of Baton Rouge, Louisiana (center to center) and roughly 60 miles northwest of New Orleans. The city is considered part of the Baton Rouge metropolitan area. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of the parish. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. For example, in August 2018, deputies arrested five women during undercover operations in which they contacted women on various social media websites who were advertising sexual services for sale, with prices up to $200. After the money changed hands, the suspects were arrested, and were booked on one count of prostitution each.
In March 2022, the city council adopted new rules tightening its regulation of local massage parlors in an effort to flush out potential prostitution. The new ordinance, approved by the Denham Springs City Council, levied several restrictions on those businesses, namely prohibiting operation between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Parlors were also required post a clear list of services—from which they cannot deviate—and keep a detailed, written record of each appointment. Breaking those rules was punishable by a fine and up to 60 days in prison, per the ordinance. Three parlors in the Denham Springs area had been recently targeted in undercover stings after Mayor Gerard Landry got a tip from a concerned civilian at one of those businesses.
While most of the enforcement efforts in the area have been focused on victims and pimps, traffickers, and brothels, there have been arrests of sex buyers as well. For example, in March 2017, the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and Louisiana State Police Special Victims Unit Task Force conducted an undercover prostitution operation at a motel in Denham Springs. The operation resulted in five arrests of women for prostitution, and one man for soliciting sex from a prostituted person. Undercover agents located online profiles which offered cash in exchange for sex. An undercover agent made contact using the information listed on those profiles, and a meeting was set up. One of the arrestees was a man who was apprehended and received a summons for soliciting; his name, age, and address were included in news releases.
In April 2018, a House committee in the LA state legislature voted 9-6 to increase penalties for soliciting prostitution and to create a program that would educate offenders about human trafficking. Senate Bill 335 by state Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Bogalusa, would raise the minimum fine for anyone convicted of soliciting prostitution to $1,000, up from $500, and would set the fine at $5,000 if the person knew the prostituted person was a victim of human trafficking or was underage. The bill did not change the length of the jail sentence for the offense, a maximum of six months. The bill also contained a provision that allowed a judge to order a person convicted of solicitation (a sex buyer) to attend a “buyer beware” education program that warned of the negative effects of prostitution. The program was modeled on one started in Washington state that was said to be effective in convincing sex buyers not to break the law again, and the money from sex buyers could be used to pay for programs that benefit human trafficking victims. State Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, said she supported the bill because more accountability was needed from the sex buyers in the illegal prostitution industry.
- Denham Springs Police Department
- Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office
- Louisiana State Police Special Victims Unit Task Force
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.livingstonparishnews.com/news/prostitution-sting-nets-six (2017)
- https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/communities/livingston_tangipahoa (2017)
- https://www.brproud.com/women-1-man-arrested-in-undercover-prostitution-bust-in-denham-springs (2017)
- http://www.wnem.com/5-women-arrested-in-undercover-prostitution-bust-in-denham-springs (2017)
- https://www.actionnews17.com/undercover-operation-nets-5-arrests-1-summons-on-soliciting-prostitutes (2017)
- http://www.wbrz.com/news/undercover-prostitution-sting-leads-to-six-arrests-in-livingston-parish (2017)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- http://www.weeklycitizen.com/article/NEWS (2015)
- http://www.foxcarolina.com/louisiana-state-police-announces-five-arrests-as-part-of-sex-crime-investigation (2015)
- http://www.wbrz.com/news/caught-five-women-arrested-in-online-prostitution-sting (2018)
- http://www.wafb.com/clip/13181015/5-women-arrested-in-undercover-prostitution-bust-in-denham-springs (2018)
- https://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/prostitution_trafficking_johns (2018)
- https://www.wbrz.com/denham-springs-cracks-down-massage-parlors-recent-prostitution-busts (2022)