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Hays County is a county in Central Texas with a population of approximately 230,000 residents. Its county seat is San Marcos, TX. The county is a part of the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area. Instances of prostitution and sex trafficking have recently been documented within the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates have resulted in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking. For example, in 2020, an investigation into a San Marcos spa resulted in the arrest of an Austin woman on a second-degree felony charge for human trafficking. According to Hays County Sheriff’s Office, the spa was being used for sex trafficking, where individuals were engaging in sexual acts in exchange for money within the spa. In addition to the Hays County Sheriff’s Office, the Anti-Trafficking Unit from the Texas Department of Licensing and Registration and refugee advocates from Austin helped execute the investigation.
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. For example, in April of 2021, seven male sex buyers were arrested in an online sting operation targeting individuals attempting to sexually exploit and victimize minors in exchange for money. According to the Hays County Sheriff’s Office, undercover officers posed as females under the age of 18 and began to communicate with suspects through various websites known to be used to solicit sexual acts. On April 1st, 2021, three male sex buyers arranged to meet who they believed was a 15-year-old female and were arrested by undercover officers upon their arrival on the charge of prostitution/solicit person under the age of 18. The following day, April 2nd, 2021, four additional male sex buyers were arrested under the same circumstances on the charge of prostitution/solicit person under the age of 18. Other agencies involved in the joint operation were the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division, Texas Highway Patrol Division, the San Marcos Police Department and the Hays County District Attorney’s Office. The offenders’ identities, photos, ages, locations, and charges were included in reports from local news sources.
Web Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- 7 men arrested in prostitution sting operation in Hays County (2021)
- Seven men arrested in online prostitution sting (2021)
- https://www.dailyadvent.com/news/7366c13337022543c0a146652c18fde8-7-men-arrested-in-prostitution-sting-operation-in-Hays-County (2021)
- https://www.sanmarcosrecord.com/news/multi-agency-operation-results-several-arrests-sexual-exploitation-minors (2021)
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- Kyle woman charged with sex trafficking of a local teen (2016)
- Hays County massage parlor shut down after prostitution related arrest (2016)
- San Marcos spa employee charged with prostitution (2016)
- San Marcos spa was used for sex trafficking, Hays County officials say (2020)
- Austin woman arrested on second-degree felony charge for human trafficking at a San Marcos spa (2020)