Gilbert is a city of approximately 237,000 residents, located about 20 miles east of Phoenix in Maricopa County, Arizona. Among the problems associated with local prostitution have been the serial killing and serial rapes targeting trafficked girls and women involved in prostitution, and cases of child sex trafficking have also been documented in the city and nearby communities such as Mesa and Chandler.
In an effort to reduce local demand for commercial sex, the Gilbert Police Department and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office have conducted reverse stings. Spurred by complaints from community members of reported prostitution in some of the city’s massage parlors, hotels, and streets, officers have arrested prostituted women and replaced them with undercover female officers. As men arrive for their “appointments” and offer money to the decoy in exchange for sexual services, they are arrested by police.
In June 2018, a man was arrested by the the Gilbert Police Department on suspicion of trying to arrange a meeting to have sexual contact with small children. Police arrested the man after undercover officers posing as parents of 2- and 3-year-old children corresponded with the man and arranged to meet him at a Mesa hotel. The suspect indicated he was interested in meeting the children to engage in sex, and sent an image of himself, as well as an image of a nude girl about 8-10 years old who was posed in a sexually explicit manner. The photo was used to confirm his identity. The suspect was charged with counts of child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of a minor.
In July, 2019, twenty-five people in the Valley were arrested on child sex-trafficking charges in a multi-agency sting operation called Operation Summer Shield. The arrests came after an undercover operation by the Tempe Police Department, the Mesa Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. The men arrested ranged in age from 19 to 63 years old, and they faced charges that include child sex trafficking, sexual abuse, luring of a minor for sexual exploitation, attempted sex conduct with a minor, furnishing harmful materials to a minor and possession of dangerous drugs. Undercover officers and detectives had placed ads on various websites and apps used by people interested in illegal sex acts with children. The suspects are named and pictured on a Tempe Police Department News release.
- Gilbert Police Department
- Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office
- Chandler Police Department
- Arizona Department of Public Safety
- Web-Based Reverse Sting, Shaming:
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Teenagers Tell of Prostitution”, Prescott Evening Courier, April 8 1952.
- “Teen Prostitution Ring Busted, Police Say: 15-Year-Old Led Officers to California Man, 3 Other Girls”, East Valley Tribune, January 3 2008.
- “Child Sex Trafficker Sentenced to Almost 22 Years”, KTVK-TV 3, August 15 2009.
- “Man Sentenced after Forcing Teen into Prostitution in Mesa”, KTVK-TV 3, August 15 2009.
- “Calif. Man Sentenced in Teen Prostitution Case”, East Valley Tribune, October 7 2011.
- “FBI Nabs 3, Rescues 4 in Prostitution Sting”, Yuma Sun, June 24 2014.
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Cops Get Naked on the Job”, Kingman Daily Miner, November 25 1999.
- “Woman Sold Sex via Net, Court Says: Craigslist Used to Draw Customers to Mesa Hotel Room”, East Valley Tribune, December 21 2006.
- “Massage Parlor Magnet: Mesa Fights Reputation for Attracting Seedy Operators, Looks at Tightening Its City Code”, East Valley Tribune, July 26 2009.
- “Mesa to Target Massage Parlors for Prostitution”, Arizona Republic, July 29 2009.
- “Massage Parlor Crackdown Nets 20 Arrests”, East Valley Tribune, October 8 2009.
- “Tougher Massage Rules on Track Despite Delay”, East Valley Tribune, November 17 2009.
- “Massage Businesses Vanish during Crackdown: Mesa Police Say They Are Finding Locked Doors at Some Locations”, East Valley Tribune, November 22 2009.
- “Mesa Looking to Crack Down on Main Motels: Councilman Wants Prostitution, Drugs Out of Neighborhoods”, East Valley Tribune, March 12 2010.
- “Mesa Home, Massage Business Searched in Scottsdale Prostitution Investigation”, East Valley Tribune, May 19 2010.
- “Mesa Wants to Tighten Ordinance on Massage Businesses”, East Valley Tribune, December 7 2010.
- “Mesa Council OKs Tougher Massage Regulations”, East Valley Tribune, March 9 2011.
- “Mesa Massage Parlor Busted for Prostitution”, KTVK-TV 3, September 20 2013.
- Child Endangerment:
- “Woman with Child Faces Prostitution Charge”, East Valley Tribune, September 3 2009.
- Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Mesa Police Say 2 Unsolved Killings, Sexual Assault Linked”, Casa Grande Dispatch, May 6 2008.
- “Co-Workers Call Murder Suspect Quiet, Mysterious”, Arizona Republic, May 15 2008.
- “Suspect in Serial Slayings, Rapes Identified: Mesa Business Owner, 36, Jailed without Bail”, East Valley Tribune, May 16 2008.
- “The Many Faces of a Suspected Serial Predator”, East Valley Tribune, May 29 2008.
- “Mesa Man Gets Death in Killings of Prostitutes”, Arizona Republic, October 8 2011.
- “AZ Death Row Inmate’s Convictions, Sentences Upheld”, CBS/KPHO-TV 5, July 31 2013.