|IT Based Tactics||✓|
Farrell is a city of roughly 4,000 residents, located in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, within the Youngstown–Warren-Boardman, OH-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of Mercer County. For example, in May 2021 a woman pleaded guilty to distribution of material depicting the sexual exploitation of a minor after distributing 11 images of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on an online chat forum in 2017. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response.
To identify and apprehend local sex buyers driving the prostitution and sex trafficking markets, law enforcement agencies have conducted reverse stings. For example, in 2013, officers from the Southwest Regional Police Department in Farrell placed a decoy advertisement on an undisclosed social media site advertising sex in exchange for cocaine. At least one sex buyer responded to the listing and arranged to meet a female undercover officer in nearby Belle Vernon, where he was arrested after offering the officer $100 in exchange for sex. During processing, it was discovered that the man was listed in a national registry for convicted sex offenders. Soon after, the SRPD released the individual’s name and arrest photo to the public.
Not all arrests of sex buyers are the result of reverse stings, but are instead the product of investigating allegations against offenders with real victims. In January 2017, a man was arrested and charged with patronizing a prostitute, obstructing law enforcement, official oppression, and two counts of evidence tampering, to which he pleaded no contest. The former Farrell police officer was fired from his part-time position in December for conduct unbecoming a police officer after an internal investigation, according to the city manager. The charges were filed after the investigation was turned over to the Pennsylvania State Police Organized Crime Task Force, which occurred at the request of the Farrell police chief. According to the state police report, the former officer met a woman for sex behind a closed professional office during his overnight shift in November while in full uniform and driving a marked Farrell cruiser. Afterward he threatened to arrest her for prostitution if she did not respond to his calls and text messages. The meeting was cut short when another officer drove by on a routine patrol. The defendant later falsified a report on the incident, claiming that he was attempting to recruit a confidential informant. His report included false information about the location, time, and details of the meeting. The woman told police that the officer paid her $80 for sex, and police obtained text messages corroborating her claim. The defendant’s name and other identifiers were released to the press. The officer was sentenced to four months house arrest followed by two years probation. The man was also the former police chief for Stoneboro. He was fired by the Stoneboro council in August, but was rehired in October and was then able to resign with a settlement agreement of $10,000 severance pay and $1,500 reimbursement for legal fees.
- Southwest Regional Police Department
- Mercer County Court of Common Pleas
- Pennsylvania State Police Organized Crime Task Force
- Farrell Police Department
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- Police: Registered Sex Offender Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, NBC/WPXI-TV 11, June 18 2013.
- “Southwest Regional Police Vice Squad Sets Up Prostitution Sting”, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 19 2013.
Sex Buyer Arrest, Employment Loss:
- https://www.pennlive.com/news/2017/01/pa_crime_photos_of_the_week_41 (2017)
- https://www.sharonherald.com/news/fired-cop-accused-of-patronizing-prostitute (2017)
- https://www.wkbn.com/local-news/former-farrell-police-officer-facing-criminal-charges (2017)
- https://cseinstitute.org/duty-mercer-county-police-officer-accused-buying-sex (2017)
- https://www.sharonherald.com/news/ex-cop-gets-house-arrest-probation-for-theft–prostitution (2018)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- https://www.sharonherald.com/news/local_news/police-campaign-targets-reported-prostitution-zone (2007)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area: