Fort Worth is a city in Texas with a population of about 899,597 residents located about 40 miles west of Dallas. It is the county seat of Tarrant County, covering nearly 350 square miles, and crosses into four other counties: Denton, Johnson, Parker and Wise. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of these counties. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is child sex trafficking, and prostituted women have also been murdered in the city.
In 2013 two Tarrant County men were sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for sex trafficking. One man pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking of a minor, and the other pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion. Investigators had learned that a 16-year-old girl had been working as a prostitute for a suspect while she was working as a stripper at a Fort Worth night club. The offender took all of the proceeds, provided her with necessities such as food and clothing, and provided condoms and hotel rooms for her to use. The second trafficker had exploited a 19-year-old woman in essentially the same way, and the victim testified that she was afraid to leave the offenders who had choked her, pulled her hair, poured drinks on her head and threatened to harm her – while pushing her to work longer hours and acquire more clients. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, as well as the North Texas Trafficking Task Force, including the Arlington, Dallas and Fort Worth police departments.
The Fort Worth Police Department fights local prostitution and sex trafficking in many ways. 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. Officers began conducting large-scale street-level reverse stings in the early 1980s. One operation, conducted in April 1986, netted 81 johns in a single sweep. Although prostitution charges are categorized as a misdemeanor, arrested johns may be fined up to $1000 for a first offense; after three or more violations, johns may be charged with a felony.
Shaming is also an important element of Fort Worth police response to combating commercial sex sales. In 2007, a program called “John TV” was introduced. This shaming tactic goes a step beyond simply making the arrested johns’ information available to local media. Police post the names and photographs of people arrested for solicitation on both the city’s web site and on its community cable TV. This more extreme step was instituted after many complaints from local area residents and businesses regarding prostitution activity. Other cities in Texas, such as Dallas and Arlington, have also put programs in place similar to “John TV” in order to deter solicitation.
- Fort Worth Police Department
- Reverse Stings:
- “FW Police Arrest 81 Men in Prostitution Sting”, Dallas Morning News, April 20 1986.
- “19 Men Arrested in Fort Worth Prostitution Sting; Riverside Residents’ Complaints Prompt Undercover Investigation”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 19 2000.
- “Police Arrest Eight Men in ‘John Sting’; Officers Target Area Frequented by Prostitutes”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 21 2001.
- Shaming and “John TV”:
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Dozens Rescued from Sex Ring, Feds Say”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 18 2002.
- “3 Suspects in Prostitution Inquiry Will Be Charged as Juveniles”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 22 2008.
- “Former Soldier Charged in Fort Worth Trafficking Case”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 20 2012.
- “Human Trafficking on the Rise Across North Texas”, CBS/KTVT-TV 11, September 21 2012.
- “A Tarrant County Couple Pimped Out a 15-Year-Old Girl for Four Months, the Feds Say”, Dallas Observer, April 18 2013.
- “Tarrant County Men Get 15 Years for Forcing Women into Prostitution”, Dallas Morning News, June 5 2013.
- “Sex Trafficking Sentence in Fort Worth”, CBS/KEYE-TV 42, October 18 2013.
- “Texas Woman Sentenced for Forcing Girl into Prostitution”, CBS/KWTX-TV 10, October 18 2013.
- “Woman Gets Six Years in Prison for Forcing Teen into Prostitution in Fort Worth”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 18 2013.
- “Man Sentenced after Trying to Force 15-Year-Old Girl into Prostitution”, CBS/KHOU-TV 11, November 13 2013.
- “Missouri Couple Charged with Luring Girls into Prostitution,” Lake Expo, August 27 2015.
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- Documented Violence Against Prostituted Persons: