Fort Lauderdale, FL

Tactics Used

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

Fort Lauderdale is a city of approximately 180,000 residents, situated along Florida’s eastern coast in Broward County, FL. Similar to the neighboring communities of Dania Beach, Wilton Manors, Pompano Beach, Hollywood, Plantation, and Tamarac, the city has experienced longstanding and well-documented problems related to prostitution and sex trafficking – including cases of serial rapists and serial murderers who specifically targeted prostituted women.

To address the wide range of crimes and disorder that always accompany the sex trade, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department (FLPD) and other have employed several tactics targeting sex buyers such as street-level reverse stings. FLPD officers have conducted street-level reverse stings since at least 1985. Although its investigations may vary in scope and duration, the FLPD’s Prostitution Enforcement Team (PET) often conducts large-scale operations, at times netting over 100 male sex buyers in a single sweep. For example, in 1995, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department participated in a county-wide prostitution operation that resulted in a total of 576 prostitution-related arrests, 356 of which were made by the FLPD. According to reports, the operation targeted both prostituted people and sex buyers. Participating agencies included the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the Pompano Beach Police Department. In October of 2017, police announced the arrest of eight male sex buyers rounded up during a “high visibility enforcement operation to combat prostitution activities in the City of Fort Lauderdale.” The men’s identities were publicly disclosed. According to police reports, undercover officers were solicited for oral sex ranging from $20 to $50, in addition to sex for $24 to $50.

As the city has been linked to several high-profile child sex trafficking cases in recent years, local law enforcement have also deployed reverse sting tactics to intercept individuals attempting to purchase sex from a minor. In November of 2013, for example, officers with the FLPD’s Human Trafficking Division conducted a three-day reversal wherein a male officer posed as a decoy sex trafficker/pimp and a female officer posed as a prostituted minor female. The officers communicated with two male sex buyers via text message and arranged to meet the men at a local hotel. When the offenders arrived, they offered $75 to the “sex trafficker/pimp” in exchange for sex. Both men were arrested and charged with “procuring a minor under 18 years of age for prostitution and criminal attempt to solicit or conspire in a second-degree felony,” and had their names and arrest photos released to the public. In 2014, as the result of a month-long investigation, a 33 year-old man was arrested on charges including human trafficking of a juvenile, getting income from prostitution, renting space for prostitution, marijuana possession and cocaine possession. According to reports, detectives responded to ads the sex trafficker posted on Backpage.com and conducted several undercover operations throughout the month of January. Police said the sex trafficker rented undercover detectives (some posing as 16-year-old prostituted girls and others as male sex buyers) a room for sexual exchanges to occur. The sex trafficker arranged negotiations with undercover officials where he would be paid for the room in addition to receiving a portion of the proceeds from the illegal sexual activity. Detectives also seized numerous items in addition to making the arrest, including a Nissan Murano, a Nissan Altima, approximately $12,000 in cash, roughly four pounds of marijuana, and close to 16 grams of cocaine.

In addition to conducting reverse sting operations, either online or street-level, various other demand reduction tactics have been deployed in the city. For example, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department also oversees a John Doe program, which educates convicted sex buyers about the kinds of diseases they are at risk of contracting from their involvement in prostitution. Since late 1995, the city has also imposed SOAP or, ‘Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution’ orders on convicted sex buyers, barring them from reentering areas of the city known for prostitution activity. Cameras have also been used by Fort Lauderdale police. For example, in 2011, the arrest of eight male sex buyers was recorded by the FLPD and uploaded on their department website for residents to view. While it remains unclear whether or not Fort Lauderdale has a formal auto seizure penalty in place for sex buyers, a media report in 2011 stated that eight male sex buyers arrested during a local reverse sting had their cars impounded. The FLPD has also been known to send letters to the residences of men who were arrested for soliciting prostitution.

Shaming and loss of employment are also consequences of buying sex in the city. For example, in 1991, the then-Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor was named as having engaged in commercial sex with the wife of a former Broward County Sheriff’s deputy during an investigation into the couple’s alleged prostitution operation. The couple allegedly maintained documentation of the names and preferences of each male sex buyer through what became to be known as “The List.” Although The List initially remained sealed, as officials were concerned that its release would cause severe repercussions for the men who names were on it – especially if men used aliases or false business cards, in November of 1991, the names of 20 men were released by a Broward County judge, and in 1993, the names of over 100 suspects were released. Of the initial 20 names that were released from The List, one alleged name quickly became public, the name of then – Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor, who made his name chasing nude bars and sexual oriented businesses out of Fort Lauderdale. When allegations were publicized that his business card was in the Rolodex and that his name repeatedly appeared in the log, the former mayor resigned without notice “for personal reasons,” as a result of his name being released on July 29th, 1991.

In August of 2007, during an prostitution investigation in the area, a prostituted woman reported to an undercover vice detective that she was coerced by a uniformed Fort Lauderdale police officer to perform sex acts in lieu of going to jail if she refused. A criminal investigation into the former officer immediately followed her allegations. In addition, the woman told police that two other prostituted woman had been involved in similar situations with the officer. The woman was also able to pick the officer’s photo out of a lineup. According to reports, the former officer had been rejected in a position with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office after he admitted using the services of a prostitute in the past, and stealing from his then-current employer. He also failed a BSO polygraph test on Feb. 3, 2006. The polygraph examiner said Wright showed unexplained reactions when asked about whether he had used illegal drugs. The FLPD hired the former officer despite his failed polygraph and known involvement with the commercial sex industry. In addition, according to personnel records, the former officer was counseled for leaving his assigned work area after he told the department that he transported a female to the beach. The sex buyer claimed that the woman needed a ride because she locked her keys in her car. Additionally, according to the affidavit, the former officer held one of the prostituted at gunpoint,

“[The former officer] told [the prostituted woman] that if she did not perform oral sex on him that he would arrest her. When she still hesitated, he removed his service weapon and pointed it at her head and said that he would kill her if she did not do it. [The prostituted woman] then performed oral sex on [the former officer].”

As a result of the investigation, the sex buyer was officially fired from the department on Sept. 21, 2007. He had only been with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department for a little more than a year. According to reports, the department’s reason for termination of employment was for failing to adequately perform his job duties — including failure to fill out police reports completely and accurately, lack of knowledge about the law, driving outside his assigned jurisdiction while on duty, and sleeping on the job. In 2010, the investigation was considered ongoing as additional charges were pending.

Officials have also been known arrest sex buyers outside of prostitution sting operations. For example, in 1975, a Fort Lauderdale woman seeking a clerical position who placed an advertisement in a newspaper classified section under positions wanted, was solicited for sex by male respondents. According to reports, none of the calls the woman received were for the clerical position she desired but rather, were for jobs in massage parlors or escort services. The woman’s mother reported this to local police who advised the woman to refer the next caller to her ‘friend’ who would be better suited for the massage parlor or escort service job offer. An undercover female officer made an agreement to meet the next caller. The undercover officer made an agreement with the potential sex buyer at a lounge on the beach to exchange money for sexual services. Vice detectives arrested the potential sex buyer upon leaving the lounge for soliciting for the purpose of committing prostitution.

Key Partners

Key Sources

Brothel Raids with Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrests:

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

SOAP Orders:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:

State Florida
Type City
Population 183606
Location
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