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Greenville is the county seat of and the most populous city in Pitt County, NC, with a population of about 93,000 residents. It is also the principal city of the Greenville metropolitan area. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been reported in the city, in addition to at least one case of assault and robbery of sex buyers. Among the more serious crimes associated with the city’s commercial sex market is sex trafficking of minors and adults. For example, in 2014 deputies from the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office rescued a sex trafficking victim at a hotel in Greenville. According to reports, a Cary man was sex trafficking several women through sites known for prostitution advertising. According to the investigation, in January 2013, following the receipt of information that individuals in the Cary area were utilizing ads in the escort section on Backpage for purposes of prostitution, the Cary Police Department (CPD) began conducting undercover operations in an effort to identify the individuals responsible. The investigation determined that from at least February 2012 to January 2015, the offender ran a prostitution operation from various hotels in North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia. During this time frame, the offender recruited and employed several women who were then sex trafficked through ads on Backpage. The offender used verbal threats, violence, and narcotics to sex traffic the women. To limit their contact with family and friends and other external influences, the offender took away their identification cards and cell phones. As a result of the investigation, in 2015, the sex trafficker pled guilty to Interstate Transportation for Prostitution and Use of the Internet to Promote Prostitution, and in 2016 was sentenced to 84 months imprisonment followed by 10 years of supervised release. The offender’s identity and image were released to local media outlets.
In an effort to reduce the size of the city’s commercial sex market, the Greenville Police Department conducts periodic street-level reverse stings. For example, in December 2012, the Greenville Police Department’s IMPACT Unit deployed both male and female officers as decoy sex buyers and prostituted women to areas of the city known for prostitution; five individuals were arrested as a result. All had their names and arrest photos released to the public. In 2016, the Greenville Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit along with the department’s Special Operations Bureau and Tactical Anti-Crime Unit conducted a web-based reverse sting targeting male sex buyers. Undercover detectives posed as both prostituted women and sex buyers/sex traffickers, posting decoy ads on websites known for prostitution. According to the GPD, within 4 hours, dozens of people answered the online ads, with 14 men arriving at the advertised location. All 14 male sex buyers were arrested upon their arrival to the advertised location and were charged with soliciting prostitution. Officials said the men ranged in ages from 18-52 and traveled from eight different cities in Eastern North Carolina. The arrested offenders’ identities and photos were included in reports by local news sources.
In 2016, deputies from the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office arrested 36 individuals during a web-based investigation focused on apprehending individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. “Operation Casual Encounter” was a three-phase investigation that took place over a three month period. to complete. Phase One was focused on apprehending individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors, “The initial goal was to target specifically individuals that are trying to harm our children.” Phase Two targeted male sex buyers and Phase Three was an undercover prostitution investigation. As a result of the investigation, 36 individuals were arrested; eight men were charged with solicitation of a child by computer or certain other electronic devises to commit an unlawful sex act, 16 men were charged with solicitation of prostitution (sex buying), and 12 individuals were charged with prostitution. The identities and photos of arrested offenders were included in reports by local media outlets.
In 2019, Greenville police arrested 27 sex buyers. According to local news reports, “Operation May Day” involved undercover officers posing as women on websites known for soliciting prostitution. “Our sting operation lured [the sex buyers], and they brought cash payments in exchange for sexual encounters,” said Donnie Porter with the Greenville Police Department. Identities of the sex buyers were released to the public. Of the men arrested, one was a physical education teacher, one a member of the clergy, and one a business owner. The teacher was placed on administrative leave.
- “Police Seek End to Sex, Drug Trade by Posing as Prostitutes, Dealers”, Greenville Daily Reflector, November 9 2002.
- “Six Men Are Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Greenville Daily Reflector, March 21 2007.
- “Sting Nets Five Arrests”, Greenville Daily Reflector, December 8 2012.
Web-Based Reverse Stings with Identity Disclosure:
- https://wcti12.com/archive/greenville-police-arrest-14-suspects-in-prostitution-sting_20160526060200680 (2016)
- https://www.wnct.com/news/14-charged-in-greenville-police-departments-buyer-beware-prostitution-operation/ (2016)
- https://www.wnct.com/news/36-arrests-made-in-pitt-county-undercover-investigation/ (2016)
- https://www.witn.com/content/news/SHERIFF-36-charged-in-child-sex-solicitation-investigation-386602931.html (2016)
- http://www.wnct.com/news/local-news/law-enforcement-agencies-use-social-media-to-fight-crime-connect-with-community/1157780554 (2018)
- https://wcti12.com/news/local-crime/sixteen-arrested-facing-prostitution-charges-in-pitt-county (2019)
- https://www.wspa.com/news/27-arrested-in-greenville-prostitution-sting/ (2019)
Background on Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Human Trafficking Ring Leader Taken into Custody”, CBS/WNCT-TV 9, October 31 2011.
- “Officials: Teen Rescued from Servitude”, Greenville Daily Reflector, June 27 2013.
- “Woman Rescued from Human Trafficking, Spotlights Invisible War”, CBS/WNCT-TV 9, June 27 2013.
- “Teen Rescued from Pimp”, Greenville Daily Reflector, June 28 2013.
- https://www.wral.com/warrant-cary-man-held-women-in-sexual-servitude-/12267067/ (2013)
- “RALEIGH: Cary Man Accused of Pimping Several Women in the Triangle”, Raleigh News & Observer, January 3 2014.
- “Human Trafficking Case Advances,” Greenville Daily Reflector, May 17 2015.
- “Federal Charges in Human Trafficking,” Greenville Daily Reflector, June 22 2015.
- https://www.wral.com/warrant-cary-man-held-women-in-sexual-servitude-/15377058/ (2016)
- https://www.justice.gov/usao-ednc/pr/cary-man-sentenced-84-months-interstate-transportation-women-support-prostitution (2016)
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- “Greenville Police to Chat with Users of Escort Services”, Raleigh News & Observer, November 1995.
- “Police Sting Nets 35 Arrests”, Greenville Daily Reflector, May 25 2007.
- “Man, Two Women Remain in Jail after Facing Prostitution Charges”, Greenville Daily Reflector, November 28 2009.
- “Crime: Woman Arrested for Prostitution”, Greenville Daily Reflector, August 18 2012.
- “Crime: Two Face Prostitution Charges”, Greenville Daily Reflector, March 26 2013.
- “Crime: Two Face Prostitution Charges”, Greenville Daily Reflector, April 26 2013.
- “Greenville Woman Arrested for Prostitution, Drug Charges”, CBS/WNCT-TV 9, August 12 2013.
- https://www.witn.com/2021/09/22/two-greenville-women-busted-prostitution/ (2021)
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Report: Johns’ Plans Go Awry in Hotel Room”, Greenville Daily Reflector, October 31 2007.
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