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Dunbar is a city in Kanawha County, West Virginia, situated along the Kanawha River. Its population was just under 7,500 at the 2020 census. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. For example, in December, 2015, a crackdown on prostitution and solicitation of prostituted women was conducted in Dunbar in response to complaints about prostitution at a local hotel. The Dunbar Police Chief said the illegal prostitution activity was linked to the website backpage.com. The Dunbar Police Department collaborated with the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department to conduct the sting operation using that website. In December, 2017, a woman already charged with stealing a dead heroin overdose victim’s car was arrested in a prostitution sting in Dunbar, and was charged with solicitation. Dunbar police and Kanawha County deputies ran a prostitution sting at the same hotel as the 2015 sting, targeting women who advertised on the website backpage.com. Police said they had continued to receive multiple complaints of prostituted women at the hotel. In July, deputies said they found the prostituting woman with the car of the deceased person, who had gone missing earlier. In October, 2017, a Dunbar man was arrested amid accusations he drugged a female family member and sexually assaulted her before allowing other men to pay to sexually assault her at an adult bookstore in Putnam County. The man was charged with second-degree sexual assault, incest, detention of a person in place of prostitution, procuring for a house of prostitution, and houses of ill fame and assignation, according to a criminal complaint filed in Putnam County Magistrate Court. The woman told West Virginia State Police the man had picked her up to take her to her job. The victim, who was 23 at the time, said the man began telling her she didn’t make enough money at her current job, and she told him she was worried she and her child would be evicted from their apartment. The victim was pressured her into taking “a job” where she could make money in a short amount of time, and the man was alleged to have purchased a bottle of whiskey and told the woman to begin drinking it, and he gave her a pill. The victim told police she believed the pill to be a Klonopin. The victim believed the job was to be an exotic dancer, and she agreed to do that and consumed the whiskey and the pill because she needed the money. In the complaint, the troopers said the victim stated that the man took her to an “Adult Bookstore” where the man allegedly led her into a small room, where he forced her to have sex with him while other men watched through a small window. After the assault, the man had entered into an arrangement with the men where they paid him to have sex with her. The victim said she was forced to have non-consensual sex with multiple individuals, was not allowed to leave the premises, had her cellphone taken away, and was physically restrained. In August, 2021, a Dunbar resident was arrested for prostitution in nearby Charleston, WV.
Local law enforcement has employed tactics in Dunbar that are used to combat demand for commercial sex that drives all prostitution and sex trafficking. Local sex buyers have been arrested, and their identities publicly disclosed. For example, in May, 2021, a man pleaded guilty to federal child sex trafficking charges. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia reported that a 51 year old man agreed with another man he met online to pay $100 to have access to sexually abuse a 14-year-old girl, who was to be brought to a motel. The suspect was arrested when he met the other man at the motel and paid $40 upfront. The man further admitted that he had previously used Craigslist to communicate with minors about meeting so that he could sexually abuse them, and also admitted to requesting and receiving a sexually explicit image of a person who stated they were a minor. The man pleaded guilty to attempted sex trafficking of a minor and faced at least 10 years and up to life in prison.
- Dunbar Police Department
- Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office
- United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia
Arrest of Sex Buyer, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.wvgazettemail.com/dunbar-man-accused-sexually-assaulting-prostituting-family-member (2017)
- https://www.wowktv.com/west-virginia-man-pleads-guilty-to-child-sex-trafficking/ (2021)
Background on Local Prostitution: