Galveston County is in southeast Texas, near the Houston metropolitan area, and has a population of about 340,000 residents. Public officials, business owners, and local residents have reported ongoing problems with prostitution and sex trafficking in Galveston County, and the cities it contains, for decades. Recent examples include a case being tried in court as of June 2018 in which a man is accused of paying a ring of underage high school girls thousands of dollars for sexual encounters. The girls testified about teens receiving between $100 and $1,000 from the defendant after having sex. Prosecutors planned to call eight teenage girls to the stand against the man, who faces charges of sexual assault of a child and inducing sexual performance by a child.
The county also has documented several cases of prostitution-related homicide, and cases of forced prostitution of minors. Examples of egregious crimes associated with local activity in sexual exploitation include a case in 2008, where a john was tortured and murdered in a city hotel room by two men after refusing to pay a woman he had procured for commercial sex. In 2010, the two men involved were each sentenced to roughly 40 years in prison for murder. In an unrelated case, a serial killer who specifically targeted sex sellers murdered two women in Texas City. According to media reports, two victims’ bodies were discovered in 2001. Soon after, a woman involved in prostitution from Galveston came forward and reported “been beaten, bound and left naked in the same field” where the bodies had been found. In 2004, a Texas City resident pled guilty to the two killings, and was sentenced to at least 70 years in prison.
In an effort to reduce commercial sex transactions and sex trafficking, the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office and municipal police departments have conducted periodic street-level reverse stings since at least 1990, and more recently, web-based reverse stings. The operations are often conducted along major thoroughfares identified by residents and business owners as “hot spots” for prostitution activity. Following their arrest, sex buyers may have their names and other identifying information released to the public.
Web-based reverse stings have been conducted in the county since at least 2015, when “Operation On the Hook” occurred and netted eleven arrests of individuals allegedly seeking sex with children. Some of the text communications between predators and law enforcement involved undercover operatives posing as 13 to 15 year olds. Eight suspects were charged with online solicitation of a minor, three with prostitution and engaging in organized criminal activity.
- Galveston County Sheriff’s Office
- Galveston Police Department
- Street-Level Reverse Stings:
- “Ex-City Official Arrested,” Houston Chronicle, December 2 1990.
- “14 Nabbed in Prostitution Sting,” Galveston County Daily News, April 6 2008.
- “News Release,” Press Release, Galveston Police Department, March 11 2010.
- “17 Arrested in Galveston Prostitution Sting,” CBS/KHOU-TV 11, March 30 2010.
- “17 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” Galveston County Daily News, March 30 2010.
- “Galveston Prostitution Sting Nets 12 Arrests,” ABC/KTRK-TV 13, May 28 2010.
- “Prostitution Sting Leads to 12 Arrests,” CBS/KHOU-TV 11, May 29 2010.
- Web-Based Reverse Sting:
- https://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/texas/article/11-nabbed-in-Galveston-sex-predator-sting-6342226.php (2015)
- https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jun/23/11-arrested-in-undercover-galveston-prostitution-s/ (2015)
- http://abc13.com/news/online-sex-predator-sting-nets-11-arrests-in-galveston/799533/ (2015)
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Galveston’s Red Light Fight Steps up Pace,” Victoria Advocate, July 26 1953.
- “Mayor-Elect Okays Games, Prostitution,” Prescott Evening Courier, May 12 1955.
- “Galveston Branded Prostitution Mecca,” Victoria Advocate, May 25 1955.
- “Galveston Hits Prostitution,” Victoria Advocate, June 2 1955.
- “Shady Past Ensures Future – Galveston Provides Respectability to One of Its Former Brothels,” Galveston County Daily News, May 4 1997.
- “Pimps, Prostitutes Invading Neighborhoods,” Galveston County Daily News, November 28 2002.
- “A Shocking New Problem in Galveston?” Galveston County Daily News, January 18 2004.
- “’Cool’ Cop Is Arrested,” Galveston County Daily News, September 14 2007.
- “Ex-Cop Faces More Prostitution Charges,” Galveston County Daily News, September 20 2007.
- “Drugs, Prostitution Sting Nets 13 Arrests,” Galveston County Daily News, October 17 2009.
- https://www.galvnews.com/news/local_news/article_2ab3608a-476a-11e3-b9d2-001a4bcf6878.html (2013)
- http://www.kxan.com/news/prostitution-sting-in-southest-texas-closes-6-massage-parlors/1049768388 (2016)
- http://www.bayareahoustonmag.com/six-face-prostitution-charges-in-league-city/ (2016)
- Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Witness’ Aid Asked to Help Solve Killing,” Houston Chronicle, July 18 1986.
- “Probe in Killings of Two Leads to Kidnap Suspect,” Houston Chronicle, May 22 2001.
- “Man Pleads Guilty to Murdering 2 Prostitutes,” Houston Chronicle, January 7 2004.
- “Officials Say Failure to Pay Prostitute Played Part in Victim’s Death,” Houston Community Newspapers, April 25 2008.
- “Admitted Prostitute Implicates Men in Slaying,” Galveston County Daily News, October 21 2009.
- “Man Guilty of Murder in Torture Slaying,” Galveston County Daily News, October 27 2009.
- “Second Man Charged in Slaying Pleads Guilty,” Galveston County Daily News, February 3 2010.