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Horry County is a county along the northeast coast of South Carolina, approximately 100 miles north of Charleston. It has approximately 351,000 residents, with its population concentrated around the cities of Conway and Myrtle Beach. This activity and its ancillary crimes have resulted in in complaints from residents and businesses to local law enforcement. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are child sex trafficking and child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
In recent years, growing community complaints of solicitation have led the Horry County Police Department to adopt new strategies in an effort to combat consumer demand. Horry County has been among the earliest adopters of numerous demand reduction tactics in the United States; web-based reverse stings (2000) and neighborhood action (1981). In addition, Horry County was the first known site to use surveillance cameras targeting prostitution (1989). Other demand reduction tactics used in the county have included street-level reverse stings, identity disclosure of arrested sex buyers, and the imposition of “SOAP” orders restricting arrested sex buyers from entering designated parts of the county.
Not all sex buyer arrests are the result of proactive sting operations, but instead are the product of investigations about real instances of prostitution and sex trafficking. For example, in July 2021, four people were arrested and charged in Federal court as response to in a child sex trafficking investigation that involved victims in South Carolina. The indictment alleged that, since at least April 2020, two men (one from Myrtle Beach) conspired to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, maintain, patronize, and solicit a minor victim in South Carolina to engage in a commercial sex act. Two other men who responded to the internet postings offering the child for commercial sexual abuse and the production of child sexual abuse images were arrested and faced numerous charges, including conspiracy to sexually traffic a minor, sexual trafficking of minor, conspiracy to produce child pornography and to coerce and entice a minor, four counts of production of child pornography involving two victims, four counts of coercion and enticement of a minor involving two victims, and possession of child pornography (CSAM).
Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the county. For example, in February 2007, a 15-year veteran of the Horry County Police force resigned after he was charged with soliciting prostitution. The officer paid for sex at least four times in the prior year while on duty, according to arrest warrants, which said that witnesses and prostitutes confirmed the incidents for investigators.
Street-Level Reverse Stings:
- “Police Arrest Dozens in Sting Operation”, Myrtle Beach Sun News, October 20 1998.
- “County Arrests 16”, Horry Independent, June 17 1999.
- Vice squad arrests 41 in prostitution sting (2000)
- Six residents charged in prostitution sting (2000)
- https://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/news/local/crime/article (2019)
- https://wpde.com/news/local/sled-arrests-9-people-on-prostitution-charges (2019)
- https://www.wmbfnews.com/sled-agents-arrest-nine-prostitution-horry-county/ (2019)
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Myrtle Beach Man Arrested in Craigslist Internet Predator Sting”, WPDE-TV 5, March 13 2012.
- “15 Charged in Horry County Prostitution Sweep”, CBS/WBTW-TV 13, July 2 2014.
- “Horry County Police Charge 17 Men with Prostitution”, The State (Columbia, S.C.), July 3 2014.
- http://www.kplctv.com/story/29849716/19-people-arrested-in-horry-county-online-prostitution-sting (2015)
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/news/local/crime/article (2021)
- https://www.wbtw.com/3-horry-county-men-1-other-charged-in-multi-state-child-sex-trafficking-case/ (2021)
- https://www.wyff4.com/man-recruited-sc-girl-over-internet-violent-sexual-acts-with-adult-men-indictment (2021)
- https://www.justice.gov/multi-state-multi-agency-investigation-results-four-federally-charged-child-sex (2021)
Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Bond Set for Relative, Neighbor of Preteen”, NBC/WMBF-TV 32, June 28 2011.
- “As Bond Is Set Neighbors React to Child Prostitution Charges”, NBC/WMBF-TV 32, July 1 2011.
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- S.C. resort troubled by escort services (1997)
- “Ten Arrested in Parlor Raids”, Myrtle Beach Sun News, October 17 1998.
- “Briefly/Local, State”, Myrtle Beach Sun News, March 20 1999.
- “Council Passes Tougher Laws”, Myrtle Beach Sun News, April 18 2001.
- “Six Arrested in Connection with Myrtle Beach Prostitution Ring”, NBC/WIS-TV 10, October 17 2002.
- “Horry County Officer Resigns After Arrest for Soliciting Prostitution”, NBC/WIS-TV 10, February 2 2007.
- “6 Busted in Horry County for Prostitution”, NBC/WMBF-TV 32, September 10 2008.
- “6 Arrested in NMB Prostitution Sting”, NBC/WMBF-TV 32, October 5 2009.
- “Investigation: Sex for Sale?”, NBC/WMBF-TV 32, May 5 2010.
- “Undercover Operation at Gentleman’s Clubs Yields 9 Arrests”, NBC/WMBF-TV 32, July 22 2011.
- “Look Inside Prostitution Stings in Horry Co.”, NBC/WMBF-TV 32, July 30 2012.
- https://www.wbtw.com/news/grand-strand/20-people-arrested-in-two-undercover-prostitution-stings (2019)
- https://www.wbtw.com/news/8-arrested-in-horry-county-prostitution-case/ (2021)