|IT Based Tactics||✓|
Durango is a small city in southwestern Colorado, near the New Mexico border of approximately 20,000 residents. It is the county seat and largest city in La Plata County, CO. The city is situated close to the ‘Four Corners Monument’ which marks the quadripoint in the Southwestern United States where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity has been well-documented in city and surrounding areas of the county. Instances of prostitution have been documented since the late 1890’s when brothels were permitted in the City of Durango. Among the more serious crimes associated with the current commercial sex market in the area is child sex trafficking.
In effort to reduce commercial sex activity in the county and surrounding areas, demand reduction tactics, targeting individuals seeking to purchase commercial sex have been implemented. The majority of these operations have focused on identifying individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. For example, in 2016, a three-day web-based operation focused on identifying individuals interested in sex trafficking of minors and the commercial sex trade was conducted. The operation was led by the Department of Homeland Security in cooperation with the Durango Police Department and the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office and resulted in the arrest of six male sex buyers. According to reports, “The online postings seemed to suggest a 19-year-old woman was looking for a romantic encounter. But a Homeland Security agent testified the message contained subtle clues to those looking to solicit underage sex partners.” The men were arrested for “solicitation of child prostitution,” a felony charge in which offenders could face 4-12 years in jail. In 2017, one of the arrested offenders, a 49-year-old La Plata County man, pleaded guilty to criminal impersonation and soliciting for prostitution in a plea agreement with the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and was sentenced to 18 months of probation. His charge was reduced after evidence showed that the man had indented to solicit sex from a prostituted woman and was not seeking to engage in child sex trafficking. As a part of the plea agreement, the offender was not required to register as a sex offender or receive sex offender treatment. The identities of arrested offenders were included in reported by local media outlets.
In 2021, a similar operation was conducted that resulted in the arrest of five individuals suspected of seeking to engage in sexual activities with minors ranging from 12-14 years old. As part of the investigation, Durango police partnered with Homeland Security, La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The Durango Police Chief and Deputy Police Chief stated that the extensive details about the operation were not released because the DPD plans to continue to conducting these types of operations. Additionally, they encouraged parents to educate themselves about the apps their children are using and the people they are communicating with online,
“In law enforcement, we’re nothing without our partners, and the best partners we can have are parents. If any parent was to sit in with us on an operation, it would change their view on how safe their community is. People think to be unsafe you have to be in a dark alley in a criminal area, but realistically you can be sitting in your living room on your computer.”
The identities and images of arrested offenders were released by law enforcement to local media outlets.
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.durangoherald.com/articles/three-four-corners-men-arrested-in-child-sex-sting/ (2016)
- https://www.durangoherald.com/articles/charges-advance-against-sex-sting-suspect/ (2016)
- https://www.durangoherald.com/articles/more-suspects-arrested-in-child-sex-sting/ (2016)
- https://www.durangoherald.com/articles/la-plata-county-man-arrested-in-sex-sting-gets-probation/ (2017)
- https://www.durangoherald.com/articles/durango-police-arrest-five-individuals-suspected-of-child-exploitation/ (2021)
- https://www.the-journal.com/articles/durango-police-say-internet-sex-stings-are-legal-not-entrapment/ (2022)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- Hard drinks and history (2015)
- https://www.durangoherald.com/articles/child-sex-trafficking-reaches-to-every-corner-of-colorado/ (2017)
- https://www.somdnews.com/independent/crime_and_courts/la-plata-woman-charged-with-prostitution-assault (2018)
- Introduction to historical minutes and ordinances of the City of Durango (2021)