Hampden Township, PA
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Hampden Township is a township in western Pennsylvania. It is the largest municipality by population in Cumberland County, PA, with a population of roughly 31,000 residents. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity has been well-documented in the township and surrounding communities. The county is known to have been on regional sex trafficking circuits since the 1980s, if not before, and local prostitution has been a persistent problem, particularly along interstate trucking routes. Situated along I-81, the area has been described as “an artery for drug and sex trafficking,” and community residents have reported spikes in prostitution and sex trafficking in and around the area’s four major truck stops. These four truck stops make up what is known as “Miracle Mile” – a stretch of highways that connect Interstate 81 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. In 2004, local truck stop representatives joined local law enforcement agencies to announce increased enforcement to combat ongoing problems with prostitution in Middlesex Township, Carlisle, Hampden Township, West Hanover Township, and nearby communities in Cumberland and Dauphin counties. Reports of violence against individuals engaging in commercial sex, targeted homicide of prostituted persons, and sexual assault/rape of prostituted persons have been documented to occur as a result of prostitution-related activity at these trucks stops. The need for enhanced law enforcement regarding prostitution in the county occurred after the body of a 44-year-old woman was spotted by a motorist along the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Plainfield, PA.
This activity and its ancillary crimes has generated reports to local law enforcement by residents and businesses. For example, in January 2003, six women were arrested by state police and Hampden Township detectives after a two-month investigation sparked by citizen complaints of prostitution activity at three massage parlors. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is adult and minor sex trafficking. For example, in December 2005, 16 individuals from Toledo, OH, were charged as a result of the discovery of a multi-state child sex trafficking and money laundering ring. The ring operated in the Harrisburg area, primarily at the Gables of Harrisburg truck stop in West Hanover Township. According to the federal indictment, the sex traffickers “used violence and intimidation to recruit and control the women and girls working for them or their co-conspirators.” The operation began in February 2001 until December 2005, in which the sex traffickers transported women and girls throughout the United States for purposes of prostitution.
Efforts to combat commercial sex activity in the township have included those focused on reducing demand by targeting sex buyers in the area through web-based reverse sting operations. For example, in March 2016, a 55-year-old Harrisburg man accused of attempting to solicit sex from an undercover female state trooper was arrested for patronizing a prostitute. State police said they and Hampden Township police conducted a joint we-based reverse sting operation, in which officers posted a decoy ad online of an undercover female officer posing as a prostituted woman. The suspected sex buyer arranged to meet with the undercover officer at a local hotel. According to reports, the sex buyer called the undercover trooper by cell phone and arranged to meet her for a half-hour of “full sex and another sex act for $80.” Upon his arrival, police arrested the sex buyer and took him into custody with “$80 in cash and a condom in an opened wrapper” in his pockets. Police stated that he confessed to arranging to meet the undercover trooper online for commercial sex. The sex buyer’s identity was included in reports by local media outlets.
In September, 2022, a Cumberland County’s Human Trafficking Initiative, code named Impact Demand, resulted in 10 arrests in Hampden Township. About the operation, the District Attorney commented,
“..as I stated after our first operation, we are currently focusing on the demand, that is the customer side of the equation. Buyer beware, we are going to continue these operations. If someone is thinking about answering an ad for sex in Cumberland County, they better think twice, or they may find themselves as part of the next group of individuals we arrest.”
The Cumberland County District Attorney’s Criminal Investigation Division, in cooperation with the Hampden Township Police Department and the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, conducted the human trafficking detail. The suspects were arrested after they responded to an online advertisement, arrived at a Hampden Township hotel, and paid undercover officers for a sexual act(s). Their identities were publicly disclosed.
- Hampden Township Police Department
- Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office
- Drug Task Force
- Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office
- Cumberland County Common Pleas Court
- Middlesex Township Police Department
- Pennsylvania State Police
- Troop H
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.pennlive.com/harrisburg_man_seeking_half-ho (2016)
- https://cumberlink.com/harrisburg-man-charged-after-prostitution-sting-in-hampden-township (2016)
- https://cumberland.crimewatchpa.com/da-announces-2nd-round-arrests-human-trafficking-initiative (2022)
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- Woman arrested for prostitution (1991)
- CB drug sting nets 8 (1991)
- Prostitution sting nets 57 arrests (1996)
- 1 arrest in hooker sting (2004)
- DA: “Don’t do it here” (2004)
- Prostitution stings effective, DA says (2008)
- I-81: Highway an artery for drug, sex trafficking (2011)
- “I-81 Offers Law-Enforcement Challenges”, Lebanon Daily News, January 17 2011.
- http://cumberlink.com/news/local/human-trafficking-still-a-problem/ (2013)
- http://cumberlink.com/news/local/truckers-educated-about-human-trafficking/ (2013)
- https://www.fox43.com/article/news/local/contests/two-women-arrested-for-prostitution-in-camp-hill( 2013)
- Chief: A matter of training (2015)
- https://local21news.com/pair-charged-for-promoting-prostitution-ring-involving-minors-at-cumberland-co-hotel (2016)
- https://cseinstitute.org/cumberland-county-targets-arrests-prostituted-persons-prostitution-sting/ (2016)
- https://www.ydr.com/cumberland-county-prostitution-case-investigation/ (2020)
- https://www.ydr.com/cumberland-county-prostitution-case-follow-up-investigation/ (2020)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Commercial Sex:
- Arrest of a trucker may help solve serial murders (2004)
- Murder linked to others (2004)
- “Toledoan Linked to Prostitution Ring; Indictment Alleges Multistate Operation that Recruited Underage Girls”, Toledo Blade, November 19 2005.
- At what point do they stop? (2019)
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