Harker Heights, TX

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Harker Heights is a city in Bell County, TX, located between Austin, TX and Waco, TX, with a population of approximately 34,000 residents. Due to its location along Interstate 35, an interstate well known for issues related to the commercial sex market, instances of prostitution and sex trafficking have been well documented in the city and surrounding areas. Among the problems associated with local commercial sex are sex trafficking of adult and minors and illicit massage businesses. For example, in 2018, the Texas Attorney General Paxton’s Office coordinated a seven month investigation with local and federal agencies regarding prostitution and sex trafficking in massage parlors in the state of Texas. After the Georgetown Police Department and Attorney General Paxton’s office received a complaint about illegal activity at a massage parlor in Georgetown. The investigation resulted in the discovery of prostitution and organized crime activity at a number of massage parlors and spas throughout the state, in addition to culminating the arrests of 13 people. The Bell County Organized Crime Unit coordinated the execution of seven search warrants at massage parlors in Temple, Killeen and Harker Heights, resulting in six arrests. In 2019, the Bell County Sheriff’s Department conducted an undercover sex trafficking operation resulting in the arrest of 15 men and with the assistance of UnBound of Waco and Refugee Services of Texas of Austin, the rescue of nine women. Five men were charged with promotion of prostitution and 10 men, including two men from Harker Heights, were arrested on prostitution charges. UnBound provides safe housing, food, and specialized medical attention for the victims of sex trafficking. Local news sources released the identities, ages, photos, and charges of arrested offenders.

Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. The Bell County Sheriff’s Department has been conducting reverse stings since For example, In 2017, a reverse prostitution sting led by the Bell County Sheriff’s Department in collaboration with the Harker Heights Police Department and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office resulted in the arrest of 10 male sex buyers at a Harker Heights hotel on November 8th, 2017. Two Killeen ISD teachers were among the 10 arrested, and resigned as a result of their arrest. All 10 sex byers were charged with prostitution and have since posted bond. The photos, identities, ages, charges, and location of arrest were released by local news sources. In 2019, an online operation targeting sex buyers conducted by the KPD,  resulted in the arrest of 10 men, including two Fort Hood soldiers and one member of the Killeen Chamber of Commerce. The Killeen Chamber of Commerce terminated the sex buyer’s employment upon discovering his arrest.

Loss of employment is also a consequence of sex buying that occurs within the city. For example, in 2017 a Union Grove Middle School science teacher in Harker Heights, who was also the seventh grade football/basketball coach and the seventh/eighth grade soccer coach was arrested during an online operation targeting individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. According to reports, the joint operation was conducted by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and the Harker Heights Police Department, who officially arrested the former teacher at his residence upon being notified by the HCSO. As a result of the investigation, the former teacher was arrested and charged with online solicitation of a minor and was immediately placed on administrative leave.

An education program for arrested sex buyers has also been used by Harker Heights. Stop Demand School is a sex buyers intervention and diversion program originally created by Jesus Said Love, but was adopted by the Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition in 2015, and ran its first session in 2016. Today, SDS is offered on a monthly basis in McLennan, Bell, Dallas, and El Paso Counties. Stop Demand School is an eight hour program available either online or in person for $525.00. The live course is held once a month for 8 hours and no final exam is required, whereas the online course must be completed within three days of registration and a final exam is required. Participants must achieve a score of 70% in order to successfully pass, if they do not, they may pay a fee of $50.00 to retake the exam. Counties can choose to either use the program as a part of sentencing or diversion (where charges are dismissed upon successful completion). Additional information on SDS  is available here: Stop Demand School

State Texas
Type City
Population 33560
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