Hendry County is located inland of Fort Meyers in southwestern Florida, and has a population of about 40,000. Its county seat is LaBelle, and Hendry County comprises the Clewiston Micropolitan Statistical Area. Clewiston is a town of about 8,000 residents, near Lake Okeechobee. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the communities and unincorporated areas of the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results 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.
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, 2013, members of the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office conducted a prostitution sting in the 300 block of West Sugarland Highway, Clewiston. Investigators arrested four men who were taken into custody and transported to the Hendry County Jail. Web-based reverse stings have also been used to capture johns soliciting prostituted persons the the area. The names, ages, pictures, and other detailed information about those arrested are often reported in the news. The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Division has also arrested men for pimping.
The Florida State Legislature passed a bill that was signed into law in June, 2019, that creates a registry of convicted sex buyers and provides a publicly-accessible listing of their identities. The registry data includes the names, addresses and photos of people found guilty of soliciting sex from a prostituted person. The database is part of a broader piece of legislation aimed at combating human trafficking by lowering demand for commercial sex. If fully implemented, all communities in Florida would be included as using shaming as a tactic applied to arrested sex buyers.
- Hendry County Sheriff’s Office
- Hendry County Special Operations Division
- Clewiston Police Department
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Shaming:
- WINK News, July 24, 2008. Teacher arrested in undercover sex sting.
- WINK News, November 6, 2007. Drama teacher acts up in sex sting: Clewiston man solicits sex online while at school.
- http://swflorida.blogspot.com/2013/04/prostitution-sting-nets-four-men.html (2013)
- https://www.facebook.com/notes/hendry-county-sheriffs-office/four-arrested-in-prostitution-sting/525132220862778/ (2013)
- https://www.naplesnews.com/story/news/crime/2019/03/21/immokalee-man-arrested-child-sex-abuse-charges/3234409002/ (2019)
- New Florida Law Establishes Publicly-Accessible List of Convicted Sex Buyers (2019)
- https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-ne-florida-sex-offender-registry (2019)
- https://www.npr.org/podcasts/485103472/w-f-s-u-state-news-florida (2019)
Background on prostitution and sex trafficking in the area:
- https://www.nbc-2.com/story/40956870/spa-worker-arrested-in-undercover-prostitution-investigation (2019)