Fort Myers, 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 Myers is a city of approximately 80,000 residents, located near Cape Coral in Lee County, FL. Prostitution and sex trafficking in the city are well-documented, and local cases have included child sex trafficking, the murder of prostituted women, and the robbery and murder of sex buyers. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. For example, in 2015, 15 individuals were arrested as the result of a multi-agency, two-year-long sex trafficking investigation. According to reports, the investigation was initiated in 2013 after the Collier County Sheriff’s Office discovered a sex trafficking victim during a traffic stop. Investigators later identified six more female sex trafficking victims who had similarly been transported into the United States and lured into the sex trafficking operation. The sex trafficking ring operated in Collier, Lee, Hendry, Polk, and Miami-Dade counties.

In effort to reduce prostitution activity in the city, the Fort Myers Police Department has deployed various demand reduction tactics such as reverse sting operations. The FMPD has been conducting street-level reverse stings in the early 1980s, if not earlier. Since 2010, the FMPD has averaged two or three reverse stings per year, at times conducting multiple operations in a single month. In their efforts, FMPD officers have at times run “john” and “jane” stings in parallel, sending male and female officers undercover as both decoy sex buyers and prostituted women. Following their investigations, Fort Myers Police routinely release the names and other identifying information of individuals arrested for prostitution-related offenses. For example, in 1993, the FMPD conducted a reverse sting that resulted in the arrest of 12 male sex buyers, eight of whom had their vehicles impounded. All 12 men had their identities released in reports by local media outlets. In January 1999, Fort Myers city officials passed an ordinance enabling the FMPD to seize the cars of arrested sex buyers. Subsequent media reports suggest that the ordinance was used, at least initially, but it is unclear if it is still in effect.

Some arrests of sex buyers occur through investigation of allegations against real victims, rather than resulting from proactive reverse sting operations using police decoys.  For example, in 2019 deputies arrested two people after a man in a van was observed picking up a woman and parking in a county park for sex. Lee County Sheriff’s Office deputies on patrol on Johnson Avenue observed a woman walking and then being approached by a white van driven by a man. The woman climbed into the van, which drove off. The deputy approached the van and observed the pair engaged in a sex act. Both suspects were arrested and charged with Procure for Prostitution.

Loss of employment is also a consequence of buying sex in the city. For example, in 2019, a former Fort Myers police officer was arrested for soliciting prostitution, official misconduct, and perjury. The 46-year-old Cape Coral man was arrested after a video of the former officer soliciting and engaged in prostitution with a female massage therapist while on duty and acting in an undercover capacity during a massage parlor operation in Fort Myers on March 14, 2013 was anonymously posted on Vimeo. As a result of the video evidence and a formal complaint filed by a former detective at the FMPD, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) opened an investigation into the officer in question. According to reports, the video evidence contradicts police records, demonstrating that the officer did engage in sex acts with the woman, and made false reports which led to the arrest of the massage therapist and the business owner. The FMPD placed the former captain on unpaid administrative leave pending the investigation. The day before the FDLE arrested the sex buyer on charges of 3rd Degree Felony Official Misconduct, 3rd Degree Felony Perjury in an Official Proceeding and 1st Degree Misdemeanor Solicitation of Prostitution, he announced his retirement. The case was assigned to the 12th Judicial Circuit in Sarasota, and subsequently dismissed, citing a lack of evidence available. After the dismissal, the police department completed its internal affairs investigation and sustained the allegations against the former captain.

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrest:

Auto Seizure:

Sex Buyer Fired and/or Resigned Due to Arrest:

Sex Trafficking in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Florida
Type City
Population 79927
Location
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