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As the second largest city in Oregon, Eugene has a population of approximately 170,000 residents and is the county seat of Lane County. The city is home to the University of Oregon and is situated along the Willamette River. Prostitution and sex trafficking are known problems in the city, and the ancillary crimes they generate result in complaints to law enforcement from residents and businesses. Among the more serious problems associated with commercial sex in the area include child sex trafficking. For example, in 2017, the Eugene Police Department (EPD), along with the FBI, Benton County Sheriff’s Office, and Portland Police Department, assisted in the arrest of a woman who was accused of trafficking her 3-year-old daughter. A man (who was also arrested for possession and receipt of child sexual abuse material) offered $1,000 or $6,000 to sexually abuse her child. The woman claims that she played along but only so she could rob the man. She didn’t offer any evidence besides her testimony that she didn’t intend to traffic her child.
Efforts by officers to combat child sex trafficking have been extensive. For example, in 2010, Detective Curtis Newell won the 2010 National Exploited Children’s Award for his work in uncovering a prostitution ring that consisted mostly of underage girls. In 2011, a Eugene man was found guilty of sex trafficking two teenage girls and was sentenced to 188 months (about 16 years) in federal prison in 2012. The nearly two-year investigation led by Eugene police and detectives with the FBI, connected over 100 local female adult and minor victims of sex trafficking to the convicted offender.
Law enforcement has targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex, which provides the revenue stream driving prostitution and sex trafficking, for decades. Eugene passed an ordinance in 1973 that held sex buyers equally as responsible as prostituted people, and police adapted their enforcement tactics accordingly. The EPD started using sex buyer arrests as a strategy for reducing prostitution and related crimes in the area that year—much earlier than most U.S. cities. Reverse sting operations and public identity disclosure were initiated in 1975. As part of sentencing, arrested sex buyers are frequently required to pay a fine in addition to completing community service hours. For example, a 1975 a street-level reverse sting operation resulted in the arrest and citation of 15 male sex buyers who had allegedly approached an undercover female officer in attempt to solicit her for sex. In addition to arrests, the identities of all 15 men were released by police. During these types of operations, police have been known to use audio and video surveillance as a form of evidence of the interactions between officers and suspected sex buyers or sex traffickers/pimps. Additional demand reduction tactics such as SOAP Orders/Exclusion Ordinances and neighborhood action have also been reported.
Many web-based reverse stings also been conducted in the city, since the majority of commercial sex transactions occur online. In addition to conducting their own stings, the EPD will collaborate with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office and participate in the FBI’s annual nationwide child sex trafficking operation, “Operation Cross Country.”
For example, in July 2014, the EPD conducted an online operation that resulted in the arrest of six male sex buyers in just under six hours. All of the men had responded to decoy online advertisements posted by undercover EPD officers. Most offenders responded to a decoy ad featuring an adult 27-year-old female, but two responded to one that featured an underage girl. All arrestees were charged with prostitution and the two individuals who had responded to the minor decoy ad were also charged with online sexual corruption of a minor. The identities of arrested offenders were released to the public.
In August 2017, a web-based operation focused on apprehending individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money resulted in the arrest of three men. According to reports, an undercover detective posing as a 15-year-old girl posted an online advertisement and arranged to meet with suspected offenders at a hotel. Upon arriving to the agreed upon location, the men were arrested by the police on numerous charges including first-degree online sexual corruption of a child, promoting prostitution, and a warrant for a parole violation. Their identities were released to the public.
A more recent example happened in 2021, when Eugene police arrested four men on charges of first-degree sexual corruption of a child. The sex buyers contacted undercover detectives posing as teenagers. Three of them were in possession of meth or other drugs “presumably to provide to the minors.”
Sex buyers and traffickers have also been apprehended by police as a result of alternative investigations or residential reports to local law enforcement. In a bizarre 2016 case, a man was accused of stealing an exotic “bush baby” primate, Girl Scout cookie money, and a laptop from his own pet store to pay a prostituted woman. Eugene police were led to a local hotel while investigating the stolen items, and the woman in possession of the animal told police she received it as a tip from a client. Two days later, the sex buyer was arrested for driving under the influence of a controlled substance and was later charged with soliciting prostitution.
A more recent example occurred in 2021, when a male elementary school teacher allegedly used social media to arrange meetings with a 15-year-old girl, paid her for sex acts, and recorded it. He was arrested on charges of sexual exploitation and trafficking of a child, possession of child sexual abuse material (child pornography), and attempted sex trafficking of a child and will serve 13 years in federal prison. His identity was released to the media.
These investigations have resulted in sex buyers’ loss of employment and/or participation in john schools in the area. While the city of Eugene is not known to have its own john school program, sex buyers arrested in Eugene have been given sentences including participation in the Sex Buyer Accountability course offered in Portland. For example, in October 2016, a local priest and professor was arrested for allegedly soliciting a minor online for sex. According to reports, Eugene detectives were informed about the sex buyer after arresting an underage girl for prostitution. As a result of the investigation, the sex buyer was arrested and charged with purchasing sex with a minor, sexual misconduct, patronizing a prostitute, endangering the welfare of a minor, unlawful possession of cocaine, and using a minor in a controlled substance offense. In 2017, prior to the trial, the felony drug charge was dropped, and according to a prosecuting attorney on the case, the other felony charges relating to the sexual solicitation of a minor were dropped as well. Upon conclusion of the trial, the offender was found guilty on three counts of prostitution, a misdemeanor that doesn’t require registration as a sex offender in Oregon. The man was sentenced to a three year probation, 90 days of incarceration in Lane County Jail (60 of which he was eligible to serve in an alternative program like community service), and was required to take an eight-hour Sex Buyer Accountability class in Multnomah County. As a result of his arrest, the sex buyer was suspended from all duties at the St. John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church and fired from his teaching position at Northwest Christian University (NCU).
- Eugene Police Department
- Lane County Sheriff’s Office
- Eugene’s Prostitution Task Force (composed of city officials and local residents)
- Lifeworks (Multnomah County)
Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Five Adults, One Juvenile Charged; Citations Also Issued to 15 Men”, Eugene Register-Guard, May 17 1975.
- “Police Wrap Up Two-Day Sweep for ‘Johns'”, Eugene Register-Guard, July 8 1978.
- “Alleged ‘Johns’ Submit Walkouts-Pleas in Circuit Court”, Eugene Register-Guard, July 15 1978.
- “Police Arrest 10 in Crackdown on Prostitution”, Eugene Register-Guard, August 27 1980.
- “‘Johns’ Get Stung in Police Sting”, Eugene Register-Guard, July 29 1988.
- “15 Customers in Sting Case Plead Guilty”, Eugene Register-Guard, August 12 1988.
- “28 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Eugene Register-Guard, September 30 1989.
- “Prostitution Sting Ends in 35 Arrests”, Eugene Register-Guard, February 2 1991.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 17 Men on Solicitation Charges”, Eugene Register-Guard, September 29 1998.
- https://www.eugene-or.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=3826 (2019)
- https://kval.com/prostitution-sting-in-eugene-results-in-warnings-for-4-men-7-women (2019)
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Eugene Police Arrest 6 Men in Prostitution Sting”, Eugene Register-Guard, July 31 2014.
- http://projects.registerguard.com/rg/news/local/31947226-75/eugene-police-arrest-6-men-in-prostitution-sting.html.csp (2014)
- “Police Arrest 6 Men in 6 Hours on Prostitution Charges”, NBC/KTMR-TV 16, July 31 2014.
- “Police Post Fake Ads, Nab 6 Men in 6 Hours on Prostitution Charges”, CBS/KVAL-TV 13, July 31 2014.
- http://www.registerguard.com/rg/news/local/35829093-75/three-men-arrested-in-eugene-child-prostitution-sting (2017)
- https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Police+arrest+three+menin+child+prostitution+sting.-a0499899285 (2017)
- https://oregoncrimenews.com/three-arrested-in-eugene-police-undercover-sex-trafficking-operation/ (2017)
- https://www.kezi.com/content/news/Springfield-man-arrested-in-child-prostitution-sting (2019)
- https://www.kezi.com/content/news/Sutherlin-man-arrested-in-child-prostitution-sting (2019)
- https://nbc16.com/sutherlin-man-arrested-during-eugene-child-prostitution-sting (2019)
- https://www.eugene-or.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=3815&ARC=10441 (2019)
- https://katu.com/eugene-police-arrest-man-as-result-of-online-child-prostitution-sting (2020)
- https://kval.com/news/local/two-lane-county-men-arrested-for-sexual-corruption-of-minor-in-online-sting (2021)
- https://www.kezi.com/four-men-tried-to-meet-teens-for-sex-in-police-sting-officials-say (2021)
- https://www.kezi.com/news/crime/four-men-tried-to-meet-teens-for-sex-in-police-sting-officials-say/article_19be6db9-7e2f-5a88-808e-03073b58834e.html (2022)
- “Secrecy of ‘Johns’ Arrests Explained”, Eugene Register-Guard, August 28 1980.
- “Eugene, OR., Neighborhoods’ Threat Puts End to Prostitution”, Vancouver Columbian, May 29 2001.
- https://www.registerguard.com/eugene-school-safety-officer-former-epd-officer-accused-of-sex-with-prostitute (2019)
- “Suspects in Sting Get Offer: They’d Be Required to Aid Neighborhood”, Eugene Register-Guard, February 8 1991.
SOAP Orders/Exclusion Ordinance, Neighborhood Action:
- An Ordinance Concerning Prostitution-Free Zones; and Adding Sections 4.746, 4.749 and 4.750 to the Eugene Code, 1971. (2000)
- EC 4.746, Designation of Prostitution – Free Zones
- “Eugene Tackles Prostitution”, Vancouver Columbian, March 25 2000.
- City officials attack prostitution problem in west Eugene area (2000)
- “Eugene, OR., Neighborhoods’ Threat Puts End to Prostitution”, Vancouver Columbian, May 29 2001.
- “Police Address Prostitution with Some Help”, Daily Emerald, June 27 2000.
- “Law Banning Criminals from Downtown Takes Effect in September”, CBS/KVAL-TV 13, August 13 2008.
- “Crooks: Stay Out of Downtown”, CBS/KVAL-TV 13, September 22 2008.
- “Is the Downtown Exclusion Zone Working?, CBS/KVAL-TV 13, October 6 2009.
- “Police Ask for 150-Day Extension on Downtown Public Safety Zone”, CBS/KVAL-TV 13, July 26 2010.
- “Exclusion Zone ‘an Experiment… About the Crime Problem Downtown'”, CBS/KVAL-TV 13, October 5 2010.
- https://cldc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Marek-Exclusion-Zone-Project.pdf (2010)
- “Downtown Exclusion Zone May Get Another 18 Months”, CBS/KVAL-TV 13, October 26 2010.
- “City Council Extends ‘Exclusion Zone’ through April 2012”, CBS/KVAL-TV 13, December 8 2010.
- “Downtown ‘Exclusion Zone’ Expires in April”, CBS/KVAL-TV 13, December 14 2011.
- “Citizens Speak Out About Downtown Exclusion Zone”, CBS/KVAL-TV 13, February 22 2012.
- “Downtown ‘Exclusion Zone’ Extended”, CBS/KVAL-TV 13, February 27 2012.
- “Downtown Eugene Exclusion Zone Debate”, CBS/KVAL-TV 13, September 14 2012.
Sex Buyer Arrest, Employment Loss, John School:
- https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2012/02/52_portland_men_undergo_johns.html (2012)
- http://www.portlandcriminaldefenseblog.com/2012/02/multnomah-county-diversion-program-seems-to-discourage-sex-crimes.shtml (2012)
- https://ktvz.com/news/2016/10/14/eugene-priest-accused-of-buying-sex-from-young-prostitute/ (2016)
- https://www.nbcnews.com/oregon-man-tipped-prostitute-primate-stolen-pet-store (2016)
- https://www.pokrov.org/eugene-priest-gets-90-day-sentence-paying-teen-sex/ (2017)
- https://kval.com/news/local/judge-sentences-eugene-priest-to-90-days-in-jail (2017)
- https://www.registerguard.com/eugene-priest-gets-90-day-sentence-for-paying-teen-for-sex.html.csp (2017)
- https://www.oregonlive.com/eugene_man_bought_pornographic_videos_of_children (2017)
- https://eugeneweekly.com/2018/09/26/former-priest-teaches-at-lcc-after-sex-solicitation-conviction/ (2018)
- https://www.registerguard.com/former-eugene-elementary-teacher-serve-13-years-sex-trafficking (2021)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Man Gets 13 Years for Running Prostitution Ring”, Eugene Register-Guard, August 2 1991.
- “Man Convicted: Prostitution Ring Preyed on Runaways”, Seattle Times, December 21 1997.
- “Unrepentant Defendant Asks Judge for a Kiss”, Vancouver Columbian, March 6 1998.
- “Man Charged in Eugene Underage Prostitution Ring”, Ashland Daily Tidings, August 3 2009.
- Man Charged in Underage Prostitution Ring (2009)
- “Eugene Man Goes to Prison for Role in Prostitution Ring”, Eugene Register-Guard, August 8 2009.
- “Teenage Prostitutes in Eugene: ‘Our Mail Goal… Is to Rescue These Girls'”, ABC/KATU-TV 2, November 7 2009.
- https://www.cnbc.com/2010/05/10/law-enforcement-in-5-states-and-australia-to-be-honored-next-week-for-work-on-missing-and-sexual-exploitation-children-cases.html (2010)
- “Vice Detective Honored for Rescuing Girls from Prostitution”, CBS/KVAL-TV 13, May 18 2010.
- “Prostitution Sting Leads to Arrest in Eugene”, FOX/KPTV-TV 12, December 7 2011.
- “Pimping Teens in Eugene Gets Man 15 Years in Prison”, CBS/KVAL-TV 13, March 15 2012.
- https://www.justice.gov/archive/usao/or/news/2012/20120315_spriggs.html (2011)
- https://www.kgw.com/article/news/eugene-man-sentenced-for-trafficking-minors/283-73221249 (2012)
- “Local Girls Escorted to Seamy Side of Life”, Eugene Register-Guard, April 1 2012.
- “Albany Man Indicted in Eugene on Sex Charges”, Albany Democrat-Herald, January 19 2013.
- “2 Men Accused of Trafficking in Sex with 16-Year-Old Girl”, Eugene Register-Guard, March 5 2014.
- “Human Trafficking Victim Rescued at Valley River Inn,” Eugene Register-Guard, May 5 2015.
- “Ex-Lake Oswego Cheerleader Admits Transporting Teen Schoolmate for Prostitution,” Portland Oregonian, June 16 2015.
- “Former Lake Oswego Cheerleader Gets 4 Years in Prison in Prostitution Case,” Portland Oregonian, September 28 2015.
- https://kobi5.com/police-eugene-man-forced-runaway-minor-into-prostitution (2016)
- https://www.oregonlive.com/fbi_portland_woman_attempted_to_traffic_3-year-old (2017)
- https://kval.com/pimp-busted-in-eugene-after-planned-commercial-sex-act-fell-apart-heading-to-prison (2018)
- https://lawandcrime.com/crime/former-elementary-school-teacher-pleads-guilty-to-sex-trafficking-in-abuse-of-15-year-old-girl/ (2021)
Documented Violence Against People in Prostitution:
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Rent-by-Week Motels Worry Eugene Police”, Vancouver Columbian, January 6 1998.
- “Family Battles Pimp’s Ways To Win Back Their Daughter”, Seattle Times, July 5 1998.
- https://katu.com/fbi-cites-10-prostitutes-in-eugene-following-sex-trafficking-sting (2016)
- https://www.fbi.gov/fbi-announces-results-of-national-child-sex-trafficking-operation-in-oregon (2017)
- http://www.registerguard.com/police-investigate-massage-parlor (2018)
- https://nbcmontana.com/4-girls-recovered-from-oregon-hotel-room-in-human-trafficking-investigation (2020)
- https://www.kgw.com/police-rescue-oregon-trafficking-victims-from-portland-hotel-room (2020)
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