|IT Based Tactics
Jefferson County is a county located in the Coastal Plain or Gulf Prairie region of Southeast Texas along the Texas and Louisiana border and has a population of approximately 253,000 residents. The county seat is Beaumont, TX. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented within the county and in unincorporated areas. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious problems associated with commercial sex in the area include sex trafficking. For example, in 2018, the Beaumont Police Department and with assistance from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, conducted a year-long investigation into a local massage parlor after officials discovered prostitution advertisements referencing the spa on Backpage.com. According to officials, video surveillance captured numerous men entering and exiting the building within 20 to 60 minute time periods. Officials reported that within the year-long investigation, not once was a female seen entering or exiting the building. Officials executed a search warrant after gathering sufficient evidence that prostitution and sex trafficking activity was occurring at the spa. Additionally, officers questioned three men seen entering and exiting the building, who officials stopped for traffic violations, regarding their experience at the spa. All three men admitted to engaging in sex acts with spa employees. The investigation was ongoing at the time of reports, and the business was believed to be a cover for organized crime, prostitution, and human trafficking. According to the BPD Sergeant, anyone who has visited the spa within the year of 2018, has been caught on camera, and further investigations are to take place.
There have also been local cases of sex trafficking of children that have involved child sexual abuse materials (CSAM), or “child pornography” in many legal codes. For example, in June, 2022, a United States Attorney announced the resolution of a case in Texas involving prostitution, sex trafficking of minors, and the production and use of CSAM. Evidence was presented revealing that in November, 2020, an offender was recruiting minor females to engage in prostitution (i.e., sex trafficking of minors) and began communicating with a 14-year-old girl in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The offender and an accomplice were well aware when he began communicating with her that she was a minor, but still pursued her and tried to convince her that she would profit by engaging in prostitution through them. Both defendants took the minor victim to a hotel in Beaumont, Texas and introduced her to a 16-year-old sex trafficking victimsthat was also being sexually exploited by them. The traffickers took photographs of both minor girls and the other prostituted persons they were exploiting and posted them on an Instagram account as an advertisement, along with a visible geo tag showing those who saw the advertisement where to go to engage in sexual acts with the girls. When the minor victim’s grandmother realized that she had run away from home, she began looking at the child’s social media accounts and found the communications between her granddaughter and the offenders, and reported it to law enforcement. One of the traffickers was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison, the other to three years, and followed by five years of federal probation.
To combat prostitution and sex trafficking in the area, and the related crimes and complaints they generate, local law enforcement agencies have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex, which provides the revenue stream that motivates all prostitution and sex trafficking. Reverse stings are frequently conducted by officials in the county. For example, in 2019, the Beaumont Police Department’s Narcotics and Vice Unit conducted a web-based sting focused on targeting demand for commercial sex and sex trafficking in the area. According to reports, undercover officers posted decoy advertisements for prostitution online, that resulted in numerous individuals responded and agreed to meet undercover officers at the hotel room and pay for sexual intercourse. On the day of the sting, six male sex buyers arrived at the hotel, all who were arrested by undercover officers and transported to the Jefferson County Jail on prostitution charges. The offenders’ identities, photos, ages, locations, and charges were included in reports from local news sources.
In 2020, the Beaumont Police Department and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office conducted a joint operation targeting sex buyers and sex traffickers within the county. The operation resulted in the arrest of 21 male sex buyers allegedly accused of soliciting sexual relations from both minors and adults. According to an officer from the Beaumont Police Department, the anti-sex trafficking operation’s purpose was to reduce the demand and deter people from purchasing sex,
“Sex trafficking is fueled by the demand that these buyers provide. Without men who are willing to purchase sex, traffickers and pimps would not exploit victims.”
In 2021, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in coordination with local law enforcement agencies, conducted a two-day joint prostitution and sex trafficking operation, focused on rescuing victims of sex trafficking in addition to apprehending their exploiters. As a result of the investigation, two sex traffickers were identified, resulting in the arrest of one, and an ongoing investigation into the second sex trafficker. Five male sex buyers were charged with prostitution, and three were charged with solicitation of a person under the age of 18. Additionally, five victims of sex trafficking were rescued. The identities, photos, ages, and charges of arrested offenders were included in reports from local news sources.
There has been some activity initiated by residents that that focused on deterring sex buyers. In October of 2013, media outlets reported that some city residents had begun to take collective action to reduce prostitution within their communities. In the Beaumont Avenues neighborhood, particularly along College Street, the publisher of the Spanish-language newspaper, La Voz, was using the newspaper to expose the problem of street prostitution. The publisher began taking photographs and video of the activity and encouraging residents and businesses to report to police. He argued that reason prostitution exists in the Avenues is because there’s a demand for commercial sex in the area, and by letting those in the area know he’s watching and furthermore, publicizing the illicit behavior, the demand for commercial sex from sex buyers will decrease or stop altogether.
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
- Six men arrested in prostitution sting following undercover operation in southeast Texas (2019)
- Six men arrested in prostitution sting (2019)
- Kirbyville man and two doctors among 26 nabbed in Beaumont prostitution sting (2020)
Loss of Employment:
- BPD officer suspended in prostitution sting gets TRO against department (2008)
- Prostitution sting cop fights for his job and reputation (2009)
- Beaumont officer testifies bosses knew about sex in prostitution sting (2009)
- City plans look at resolution to officer discipline in prostitution sting case (2009)
- Beaumont cop: Sex with prostitute wasn’t OK’d by superiors (2009)
- Beaumont psychiatrist has medical license suspended after patient complaints (2011)
- Rose Hill City Marshal arrested in Beaumont prostitution sting (2013)
- Six men, one woman arrested in Beaumont prostitution sting (2013)
- Beaumont doctor’s license suspended after being arrested with 20 others in October anti-human trafficking bust (2020)
- Beaumont psychiatrist’s troubles go deeper than arrest in prostitution sting (2020)
- Jefferson County Affidavit for Search Warrant (2018)
- BPD prostitution investigation into local spa (2018)
- Police say customers’ admit to paying for sex acts at Beaumont “spa” (2018)
Background on Local Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Related CSAM and Other Crimes:
- Prostitution Moves from the Streets to Web Communities (2011)
- Jefferson County indictment alleges human trafficking; prostitution (2019)
- 21 people from Texas, Louisiana arrested in Beaumont during anti-human trafficking bust (2020)
- Human trafficking operation results in the arrest of nine men and rescue of five victims (2021)
- Human trafficking investigation in Jefferson County, TX (2021)
- https://www.justice.gov/two-separate-cases-involving-sex-trafficking-CSAM-crimes (2022)