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Gastonia is a city of approximately 77,000 residents, located in the western suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina. The city has experienced numerous problems associated with prostitution, including the assault and robbery of prostituted women and of sex buyers. To combat rampant street prostitution in certain city neighborhoods, the Gastonia Police Department conducted a series of large-scale street-level reverse stings in the late 1980s. One early operation, conducted in April 1988, resulted in the arrest of 70 sex buyers. The men were arrested after they attempted to solicit sex from an undercover female officer; to ensure the officer’s safety and document the solicitation that occurred, a backup team monitored all of the decoy’s interactions using remote video surveillance.
While the Gastonia Police Department still conducts periodic reverse stings, anti-prostitution efforts in the city have – at times – appear to target prostituted women over sex buyers. In August 2016, however, officers reported the arrests of two attempted sex buyers (and 10 attempted sex sellers) following a “dual” sting wherein law enforcement posed as both decoy buyers and sellers. Following their arrests, all of the individuals intercepted had their names and mugshots publicized in press. Media outlets reported that officers from nearby Shelby supported the GPD with the sting.
In October 2013, two Gaston County men were beaten and robbed at gunpoint in two separate incidents, where each was trying to hire a prostituted woman. Both men initially lied to police about the circumstances, making it harder for police to make an arrest of the assailants.
In July 2017, a 35-year-old man from Gaston and his 53-year-old mother, who authorities say ran a prostitution ring across three states, were both sentenced in federal court in Columbia, South Carolina. According to local news, “Evidence shown at trial revealed that [the man] ran a prostitution business that involved both teens and adults. The business operated in South Carolina, North Carolina, and New York. His mother… also helped run the business for a period of time.” The man was found guilty on eight counts of sex trafficking, “child pornography” (child sexual abuse material, or CSAM) and firearms charges, and was the first human trafficker to be convicted through a trial in South Carolina. He was sentenced to life in prison. The woman was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to sex traffic minors.
In November 2019, a seven-month human trafficking case led to the arrests of three men who were all accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl who had run away from home. The girl later returned to her family and told them what had happened. The man who had trafficked her was charged with two counts human trafficking of a child victim, first degree kidnapping, four counts of accessory before the fact to a felony, and sexual servitude and indecent liberties with a child. According to court documents, his home address was across the street from an elementary school. The second man was charged with statutory rape with a child less than 15, statutory sex offense with a child less than 15, and first degree kidnapping. The third was charged with two counts of statutory rape of a child less than 15.
In February 2021, The Gastonia Police Department led a multi-agency undercover operation on the 1800 and 1700 block of Remount Road, which includes five hotels and a known rest stop for truckers. The police used an undercover officer as a decoy, targeting sex buyers soliciting prostitution. A dozen cases were opened following the sting.
- Gastonia Police Department
- Shelby Police Department
- South Carolina police officers and investigators
- New York police officers and investigators
- “Gastonia Police Charge 63 Men, Arrest 46 in Prostitution Sweep”, Charlotte Observer, May 21 1987.
- “25 Plead Guilty to Soliciting Sex”, Wilmington Star-News, June 14 1987.
- “Rookie Cops Learn the Streets; 2 Work in Gaston Prostitution Roundup”, Charlotte Observer, September 4 1989.
- “12 Men Charged with Trying to Buy Sex”, Charlotte Observer, June 2 1993.
- “53 Arrested in Prostitution Sweep”, Charlotte Observer, June 16 1994.
- “Prostitute Sting Brings in 15 Men”, Charlotte Observer, December 6 1995.
- “6 Charged in Solicitation Sting”, Charlotte Observer, February 15 1997.
- “Sting Targets Prostitution in 2 Locales”, Charlotte Observer, February 18 1998.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 26 in 2 Weeks”, Charlotte Observer, February 18 1999.
- “Prostitution Still Persists Despite the Crackdowns, Police Plan to Seek Solutions at March Meeting with Officials”, Charlotte Observer, February 5 2003.
- https://www.fox46.com/undercover-operation-leads-to-prostitution-bust-in-gaston-county/ (2022)
- “North Carolina, Strategy Against Prostitution Discussed”, Charlotte Observer, November 4 1988.
- “Mark Calhoun, 27; One of 9 Who Care”, Charlotte Observer, September 8 1989.
- “Neighborhood Group Looking for Trouble”, Charlotte Observer, November 21 1995.
- “Gastonia Church to Conduct Vigil”, Charlotte Observer, January 5 1997.
- “Queen’s Court New Era, Neighborhood Hoping Recent Crime-Fighting Success Will Continue”, Charlotte Observer, January 6 2008.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Gastonia Street Haven for Sex and Drugs”, Robesonian, June 1 1987.
- “Prostitution Still Plagues Highland”, Charlotte Observer, February 8 1998.
- “Police Goal: End Prostitute Cycle, Police Hope to Place Offenders in Drub Rehab Program Instead of Jail”, Charlotte Observer, May 28 2003.
- “7 Arrested, Charged After Prostitution Sting in Gastonia”, WSOC-TV 9, July 27 2008.
- “9 Charged in Gastonia Prostitution Sting”, NBC/WCNC-TV, May 27 2010.
- “10 Face Prostitution-Related Charges Including a Teen”, WTOC-TV 11, July 1 2010.
- “7 Arrested in Gastonia Prostitution Sting”, NBC/WCNC-TV, October 8 2010.
- https://www.wcnc.com/former-pastor-faces-more-prostitution-charges (2012)
- https://www.wbtv.com/police-pinpoint-prostitution-hangout-in-gastonia/ (2013)
- https://www.wccbcharlotte.com/15-people-arrested-for-prostitution-in-gaston-county/ (2014)
- https://www.gastongazette.com/gastonia-police-conduct-prostitute-round-up (2017)
- https://www.gastongazette.com/rock-hill-woman-charged-with-prostitution-larceny-in-gastonia (2020)
Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- https://www.wistv.com/nc-man-mother-both-sentenced-on-sex-trafficking-charges-ran-3-state-prostitution-ring/ (2017)
- https://www.wsoctv.com/mother-son-accused-running-prostitution-enterprise-out-gastonia-home (2017)
- https://www.wsoctv.com/3-arrested-in-connection-to-human-trafficking-case-involving-gastonia-teen (2019)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area: