Fitchburg, MA

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Fitchburg is a city with a population of about 40,000 located 60 miles west of Boston, Massachusetts. Fitchburg citizens and businesses have at times been very active in complaining and providing tips to police about prostitution activity. Between 2012 and 2014, police had received an average of over 50 prostitution complaints per year.  The local sex trade also gives rise to sex trafficking and related crimes.  For example, in April, 2017, a Fitchburg man was arrested and held without bail after police said a woman told them he held her and several other women against her will for months or years and sold them for sex. The man was  arraigned in Fitchburg District Court. A woman had come to police headquarters to ask for help getting out of what she said was an “unsafe situation” and that she was held in the man’s apartment for nearly three years and “provided sexual services” that the defendant sold to other men. The woman said she and other women were provided drugs and their sexual services were used to repay the cost of the drugs. The man also threatened the women’s families, could only leave the apartment with the man’s permission, and anytime she left, the man gave her a GPS capable cell phone so he could track her movements at all times.  The man sold their services on a dating website, and would drive her to her “dates” for which she was paid $150 to $250, and then all the money went to the alleged trafficker. The man was charged with human trafficking for sexual servitude, kidnapping, assault and battery and intimidation of a witness. In another case, in March, 2021, a U.S. District Court jury in Madison, WI found a man guilty of 10 counts including sex trafficking a minor from Fitchburg on charges including sex trafficking a minor by force, attempted sex trafficking a minor, and transporting a minor for the purpose of prostitution. The investigation of began when a mother of one of the minor victims reported her missing to the Fitchburg Police Department. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children publicized the disappearance, and she ultimately was recovered in Chicago, where the child had been exploited by the offender. He used Backpage ads to arrange “dates” for the minor victims, collected the money, and instructed the minors on what to do. The charges against him are the result of an investigation by the Fitchburg Police Department and Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other out of state agencies.

To address the consumer level demand that drives all sex trafficking and related crimes, officers from the Fitchburg Police Department have – at times – conducted reverse stings about twice a year since at least 1992. Once sex buyers are arrested for solicitation, they may face a range of consequences.  First, their vehicles may be inventoried and towed.  Once convicted, they must pay a series of fines (solicitation fines plus associated auto seizure fees) and may be subject to mandatory community service. Examples of reverse stings in the city include an operation in 2008, spanning five hours and resulted in the arrests of 9 male sex buyers.  The names, ages, and addresses of the arrested buyers were published in local media outlets. In June 2018, police arrested seven men who attempted to trade money or drugs for sex from an undercover female police officer. Six men were arrested on Main Street, after approaching the female officer outside a liquor store on River St. One man allegedly approached the undercover officer on Water Street and First Street in his car, and showed her a small bag filled with a substance believed to be heroin that he agreed to give her in exchange for a sexual act.

Fitchburg first showed interest in San Francisco‘s First Offender Prostitution Program, also known as a “John School,” in 2003. Local police reached out the the San Francisco program staff, but to our knowledge, a john school program has not been instituted in Fitchburg.  However, sex buyers often faced another kind of educational program as part of their sentence:  an AIDS awareness class.  This program, which has been in place for over four years, is prescribed in about 75% of those cases where the sex buyer is convicted of solicitation.

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey & Interview

Reverse Stings:

Auto Seizure:

Proposed John School Program:

Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Massachusetts
Type City
Population 40576
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