Garden City, GA
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Garden City has approximately 11,000 residents and is located in the Savannah–Chatham Metropolitan Area of southeast Georgia along the Interstate 95 corridor. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the city, surrounding communities, and other areas of the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Police and community members have identified indoor prostitution and sex trafficking as serious issues, as it occurs in hotels situated along the Interstate 95 corridor and is advertised on websites such as Backpage.com. An officer from the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department’s Tactical Reaction and Prevention Unit (one of the key partners for reverse stings conducted in the city) has said they have seen an increase in prostituted women in the area being robbed and assaulted by sex buyers. According to the SCMPD, about 10 percent of all street robberies in the department’s jurisdiction involved a customer robbing a prostituted woman. In one precinct, half of all robberies involved prostitutes being mugged at hotels and motels.
Federal law enforcement, working in partnership with city and county officials in the greater Savannah metropolitan area, has also linked local prostitution to regional and international sex trafficking circuits using Interstate 95 and interstate prostitution and sex trafficking rings based in Savannah. For example, in January 2013, a federal indictment charged 12 defendants for their roles in an alleged sex trafficking and prostitution ring based in Georgia. Its operations stretched to Florida and the Carolinas. The federal charges followed a lengthy investigation called “Operation Dark Night,” which was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). In addition to a number of searches and arrests, federal authorities rescued 11 women alleged to have been forced into prostitution (trafficked).
Notably, the SCMPD’s responses to prostitution and sex trafficking in Garden City and the surrounding area include efforts to combat demand. For example, a two-day, web-based reverse sting was conducted in October 2013 that resulted in the arrest of 13 sex buyers. The operation focused on prostitution services advertised on Backpage.com. Especially those that occurred in hotels and motels along Interstate 95 from the Highway 204 exit in Savannah through exits in Pooler, Port Wentworth, and Garden City.
For the operation, SCMPD officers posted a decoy advertisement soliciting sex and arranged to meet the sex buyers who responded in hotels and motels in the four communities. The first day of the operation focused on the midtown area of Savannah. The second was directed toward hotels near Interstate 95 exits in Savannah, Pooler, Garden City, and Port Wentworth. Police press releases and news reports did not state the number of sex buyer arrests that occurred in each of the separate cities. The names and ages of the arrested sex buyers were, however, released to news outlets. In their efforts, the SCMPD was assisted by several other law enforcement agencies, including their own Savannah Area Regional Intelligence Center (SARIC) and Crime Suppression Units from the West Chatham and Southside Precincts; the Pooler, Garden City, and Port Wentworth Police Departments; the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations.
- Savannah–Chatham Metropolitan Police Department
- Savannah Area Regional Intelligence Center (SARIC)
- Crime Suppression Units from West Chatham and Southside precincts
- Pooler Police Department
- Garden City Police Department
- Port Wentworth Police Department
- Georgia Bureau of Investigation
- Homeland Security Investigations (Department of Homeland Security)
Web Stings and Identity Disclosure:
- “2 Day Investigation into Coastal Ga. Prostitution Leads to 21 Arrests”, Seymour Tribune, November 5 2013.
- “Police Arrest 21 in Chatham County Prostitution Sting”, Savannah Morning News, November 5 2013.
- “21 Arrested in Coastal Ga. Prostitution Probe”, NBC/WTLV-TV 12, November 6 2013.
Sex Trafficking in the Area:
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