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Fall River is a city of approximately 94,000 residents, located 18 miles east of Providence in Bristol County, Massachusetts. Both prostitution and sex trafficking of children are well-documented local problems, and at least one serial killer who specifically targeted prostituted women has operated in the city. In an effort to curtail prostitution activity in the city, and the sex trafficking and related crimes the trade, generates, the Fall River Police Department began using street-level reverse stings in 1985. In the city’s second reverse sting, police used cameras to record sex buyers’ interactions with undercover female officers.
Operations are still periodically conducted as part of the FRPD’s “Operation John” initiative which targets sex buyers as part of a “citywide crackdown on prostitution,” initiated by complaints from residents. Once arrested, sex buyers may have their names and other identifying information distributed to local news outlets. For example, an operation in October 2013, resulted in the arrest of four sex buyers, whose identities were publicized in news reports. Other reverse stings include a 2010 operation resulting in 23 arrests throughout the city, and a more localized version conducted in October 2014 resulted in eight arrests.
In October 2017, Fall River Police Vice and Intelligence Unit officers staked out two locations, North Main Street at Pine Street, and South Main Street at Park Street, between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., due to reports of prostitution in those areas. Five males were arrested at the South Main Street at Park Street location, and one male was arrested at the North Main Street and Pine Street location. All were charged with “Sexual Conduct for Pay.” Their photos, names and other identifying information were distributed to local news outlets
In April 2018, Fall River police arrested five men who tried to pay undercover officers for sex during a reverse sting at two locations in the city: the corner of South Main and Park streets, and the corner of North Main and Pine streets. The sting occurred from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on a Friday in response to several complaints from residents and local businesses about prostitution activity. The Fall River Police Department’s Major Crimes, Vice and Intelligence, and Special Operations divisions conducted the reverse sting. The men’s names and other identifying information were distributed to local news outlets.
In June, 2018, after police received multiple complaints from businesses and residents, police conducted a street-level reverse sting between South Main St. and North Main St. Police arrested 12 men who solicited an undercover female officer, and included photos and other identifying information in press releases. The men were all charged with Sexual Conduct for Pay/ Pay for Sexual Conduct.
Employment loss is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred in the city. For example, a Fall River City Councilor was among more than 20 men arrested during a prostitution sting operation conducted by police in August, 2010. He was charged with offering to engage in sex for a fee after he allegedly approached a female police officer who was working undercover as a prostituted woman in the area of 26 Morgan St. The man was also employed as an efficiency auditor with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Department, and he was quickly suspended and a termination hearing was scheduled. About a month after his arrest admitted to sufficient facts in the case — meaning he acknowledged that, if the case went to trial, the facts could warrant a guilty verdict. He accepted a six-month continuance of his case, a $300 court fine and classroom instruction in AIDS awareness. Three weeks after the prostitution arrest, the man was fired from his auditor’s job with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, and also resigned from his seat on the Diman School Committee.
- Fall River Police Department
- Major Crimes, Vice and Intelligence Division
- Special Operations Division
- Fall River City Council’s Public Safety Committee
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Fall River to Charge Prostitutes, Clients in New Crackdown”, Providence Journal, April 9 1985.
- “Officer Drops Charge Against Friend Arrested in Prostitution Crackdown”, Providence Journal, August 23 1985.
- “Prostitution Crackdown Leads to Arrests of 7 Men”, Providence Journal, October 7 1988.
- “Police Charge 19 in Weekend Prostitution Sting”, Providence Journal, June 22 2005.
- “Undercover Sting Nets 26 Prostitution Customers”, Providence Journal, September 6 2006.
- “25 Arrested in Prostitution Crackdown”, Fall River Herald News, July 14 2007.
- “Police, Local Agencies Team Up to Curb Neighborhood Crime”, Fall River Herald News, April 3 2008.
- “Police Arrest 23 in ‘Operation John’ Prostitution Bust”, Fall River Herald News, August 7 2010.
- “Arrests Made in Operation John”, Fall River Herald News, August 8 2010.
- “Eight Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Fall River Herald News, October 6 2012.
- “Downtown Prostitution Sting Ends in Arrests of Five Fall River Men”, Fall River Herald News, September 3 2013.
- “Four Men Arrested During Friday Night Prostitution Sting in Fall River”, Fall River Herald News, October 28 2013.
- “Fall River Police Arrest 6 Men in Prostitution Sting on North Main Street”, Fall River Herald News, October 8 2014.
- http://www.abc6.com/ri-man-busted-in-fall-river-john-sting (2017)
- http://www.heraldnews.com/five-facing-charges-following-fall-river-john-sting (2018)
- http://www.abc6.com/12-arrested-out-of-fall-river-in-connection-with-prostitution (2018)
- https://www.wpri.com/fall-river-police-arrest-12-in-john-sting (2018)
- http://turnto10.com/prostitution-sting-nabs-12-in-fall-river (2018)
- https://whdh.com/12-men-nabbed-in-fall-river-prostitution-sting/ (2018)
Employment Loss, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.heraldnews.com/article/ (2010)
- https://www.bostonherald.com/fall-river-councilor-arrested-in-prostitution-sting-could-lose-job/ (2010)
- https://www.tauntongazette.com/sheriff-hodgson-suspends-brian-bigelow/ (2010)
- https://www.wickedlocal.com/fall-river-city-councilor-brian/ (2013)
- “Second Prostitution Crackdown Nets 12 Men; Operation Taped”, Providence Journal, September 13 1985.
Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation:
- “Mass. Woman Pleads Not Guilty to Teen Prostitution”, FOX/WFXT-TV 25, January 16 2014.
- “Two Fall River Residents Appear in Court on Human Trafficking Charges”, Fall River Herald News, January 16 2014.
- “Fall River Woman Indicted in Teen Prostitution Operation”, Fall River Herald News, March 7 2014.
- https://fallriverreporter.com/four-massachusetts-men-arrested-child-trafficking/ (2022)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Accused Boasted of ‘Devil Worship'”, Montreal Gazette, March 12 1981.
- “Prostitute Testifies in Cult Trial”, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, March 12 1981.
- “Alleged Cultist Denies Slayings”, Palm Beach Post, March 13 1981.
- “Accused Cult Leader Convicted by Jury”, Palm Beach Post, March 14 1981.
- “Police & Courts”, Milwaukee Journal, March 15 1981.
- Review Hearing After Revocation: Decision in the Matter of Robin Murphy, Parole Board of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety, October 18 2012.
- “Looking Back: Murder, in Satan’s Name”, New Bedford Standard-Times, October 6 2013.