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Harrisonburg is a city of roughly 51,000 residents, located in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia, northwest of Charlottesville. Prostitution activity, including incidents of sex trafficking of both minors and adults, has been reported in the community for decades. Cases of prostitution-related homicide have also been documented locally.
In their efforts to reduce the wide range of crimes associated with commercial sex, the Harrisonburg Police Department has conducted at reverse stings aimed at identifying and arresting sex buyers. In early January 2016, local media outlets reported that HPD officers had intercepted “10 people, ranging in age from 19 to 75, [each of whom was] charged with solicitation.” The logistical details of the sting– including whether it was conducted using web-based advertisements or at street level– were not disclosed; select arrestees’ identities were publicized in press. Following the 2016 sting, WHSV-TV reported that over the course of the prior year and a half (i.e., mid-2013 to early 2015), 43 charges had been filed related to prostitution, including 26 male sex buyers and 12 prostituted persons facing charges, as well as five pandering or pimping investigations.
Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the city. Among those charged in the January 2016 reverse sting was Eastern Mennonite University’s Vice President for Enrollment Luke Hartman, who resigned soon afterward.
- Harrisonburg Police Department
- Eastern Mennonite University
Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure:
- “Man Hit with Sex Charge; Police Say City Resident Also Faces Drug Counts,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, February 24 2015.
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “NEW: Ten Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, January 8 2016.
- “Police Say Prostitution Sting Nets 10,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, January 9 2016.
- “EMU Suspends VP after Prostitution Sting,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, January 11 2016.
- “Man Commits Suicide after Prostitution Sting,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, January 12 2016.
- “Prostitution Sting in Harrisonburg: New Details,” ABC/WHSV-TV 3, January 13 2016.
Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Sting Closes Prostitution Pathway; City Man Accused of Pimping Teen-ager,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, January 23 2002.
- “Sex Trade Info Filed; Federal Agents Say City Man Pimped Girlfriend,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, June 15 2013.
- “Multistate Sex Trafficking Case Expands; Federal Indictment Naming Second Defendant Unsealed,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, December 6 2013.
- “City Man Admits Role in Sex-Trafficking Ring; Police Say Brothel Was Run out of Harrisonburg Home,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, April 17 2014.
- “Police Say Ring Included Brothel in Harrisonburg,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, April 18 2014.
- “Harrisonburg Resident Pleads Guilty to Human Trafficking Charge,” States News Service, June 13 2014.
- “Two Sentenced for Sex-Trafficking Ring,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, September 5 2014.
- “Harrisonburg Resident Sentenced on Human Trafficking Charge; Elin Coello-Ordonez Previously Admitted to Forcing Young Honduran Woman into Prostitution,” States News Service, October 15 2014.
- https://www.whsv.com/new-creation-unveils-new-mural-harrisonburg/ (2022)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Didn’t Aid Prostitution, Ex-Tire Firm Officer Says,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 26 1986.
- “Ex-Tire Executive Guilty of Aiding Prostitution,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 5 1986.
- “Ex-Tire Firm Official Given Two Weeks in Jail,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 10 1986.
- “Alleged Prostitution Ring Busted; Harrisonburg Police Nab Five in Trailer,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, April 29 2005.
- “Prostitution Case Ends with Plea, Man to Spend Year in Jail,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, August 31 2005.
- “HPD Nabs Three in Prostitution Case,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, August 4 2010.
- “Police: Prostitution Still a Rarity in City, Trailer Park Raided Twice Since 2005,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, August 6 2010.
- “3 Nabbed for Prostitution, Trailer Park Site of ’05, ’10 Busts,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, August 30 2011.
- “Brothel Operator Pleads Guilty to Felony,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, November 23 2011.
- “NEW: Two Arrested on City Prostitution Charges,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, February 20 2015.
- “Online Ad Leads to Prostitution Charges in City,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, February 21 2015.
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “The Secrets in the Briefcase,” Washington Post, April 8 1997.
- “Husband’s Rage Led to Slaying, Lawyer Contends,” Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, April 10 1997.
- “Virginia; Local; Piedmont; Woman Couldn’t Stop Husband from Killing, Jury Told at Her Trial,” Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, April 10 1997.
- “4 Area Men Slam Prostitution Story,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, April 13 1997.
- “Woman Convicted in Killing of Man She Said Was Her Pimp,” Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, April 16 1997.
- “Prostitute Sentenced to 12 Years in Halfway House Leader’s Killing; Local,” Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, June 29 1997.
- “Va. Woman Gets 12 Years in ’96 Slaying,” Washington Post, July 1 1997.