Kitsap County is located on a peninsula across Puget Sound from the Seattle metro area, and has a population over 260,000. Its largest city is Bremerton, with approximately 40,000 residents and containing a major U.S. Navy base (Puget Sound Naval Shipyard). A major Navy submarine base is located in another Kitsap County community, Keyport. These features provide a large and disproportionately male military population, and consequent large potential customer base for commercial sex. Reports of prostitution and sex trafficking in the county date back to the late 1930s.
To combat illegal sex sales, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and munipal police departments in Bremerton, Poulsbo, and Port Orchard have focused primarily on “supply side” tactics, but there have been effports to address the demand side of commercial sex. For example, in the mid- to late 1990s, Bremerton police undertook a “Dear John” letter writing campaign targeting sex buyers. In 1997, a BPD officer proposed and drafted a standard form letter to be sent by the city to the homes of individuals seen idling in their vehicles in high prostitution areas. The letter, which included the date and time of the sighting, did not directly accuse the vehicle’s owner of any improprieties, but instead merely noted that officers had taken down the individual’s plate number due to suspected prostitution activity. Subsequent media reports suggest that city police distributed the john letters for at least one year; it is unclear if the tactic is still used at present.
Reverse stings using female decoys posing as prostituted women in order to arrest sex buyers. Although reverse stings in the city appear to be infrequent and/or rarely publicized, an anti-sex trafficking operation in Bremerton in April 2013 resulted in the arrest of two johns. That year, following the arrest of several individuals for allegedly pimping one woman and two underage girls, BPD investigators reviewed the “text messages, phones, and internet records” of the suspects and uncovered the names of two men who had contacted them to purchase sex. Both men were charged with “hiring a juvenile prostitute for sex,” and had their names released the public. When asked about the operation, a police representative stated that “this kind of activity will not be tolerated in our community, and [the BPD] will aggressively investigate anyone involved in exploiting kids… the young girls are victims, and the pimps, their adult employees, and the johns are nothing but predatory criminals.”
In March 2015, seven men were arrested for patronizing prostitutes during an operation trying to combat the demand for sex trafficking in Kitsap County. The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office rented three rooms in a Port Orchard motel where detectives conducted the operation that targeted male “customers.” Three of the men arrested were members of the military, including one who showed up to the “date” in his uniform. Undercover detectives had posted ads on backpage.com and Craigslist the day before the operation and arranged the dates through text messages. Detectives said men began replying to the ads within three minutes of the posts. Deputies turned the phones off at 5:30 pm, and when they turned them on the next morning, one phone had 54 pending text messages, and another phone had 38 text messages, and they keep coming throughout the day. The suspects were arrested after they arrived at the motel rooms and knocked on the doors. Detectives seized cash, phones, and car keys as evidence. The suspects were transported to the and booked for patronizing a prostitute. Each was held on a $10,000 bail and scheduled to appear in District Court the following day. The March 2015 sting was the first large operation that proactively targeted the customers throughout Kitsap County. More than a dozen officers from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, and the police departments from Bremerton, Bainbridge Island, and Poulsbo police were involved in the operation. The 2015 sting was one of many within the statewide “Operation Net Nanny” initiative.
In August 1, 2019, the Washington State Patrol (WSP) and several partner agencies announced the arrest of nineteen dangerous sexual predators who targeted children in Kitsap County, during a multi-day “Operation Net Nanny” event. This was the 16th operation spearheaded by the WSP’s Missing and Exploited Children Task Force (MECTF), an Internet Crimes Against Children affiliate. Since the original operation in August 2015, MECTF has netted a total of 271 arrests and rescued more than 31 children from sexual exploitation. From July 25, 2019 to July 29, 2019, undercover law enforcement officers used various websites on the internet and phone applications to communicate with people interested in having sex with children in Kitsap County. The operation generated hundreds of responses. The perpetrators who were arrested during the operation traveled to meet with the undercover detectives posing as underage girls and boys with the intent to engage in sexual activity with children as young as six years old. One of the men charged with second-degree rape of a child and communication with a minor for immoral purposes had previously served six months in prison for child molestation in 2014. The names of the individuals arrested during the operation were included in a news release by the WSP. The primary crimes investigated were:
- RCW 9A.44.073 – Rape of a child in the first degree – attempt
- RCW 9A.44.076 – Rape of a child in the second degree – attempt
- RCW 9.68A.100 – Commercial sexual abuse of a minor
- RCW 9.68A.090 – Communication with a minor for immoral purposes
- Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office
- Bremerton Police Department
- Bainbridge Island Police Department
- Poulsbo Police Department
- Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office
- Kitsap County Superior Court
- Kitsap County jail
- Washington State Patrol
- Missing and Exploited Children Task Force
- John Arrests:
- Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- “Dear John” Letters:
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Two Girls Sold to Man, Forced into Prostitution,” Ottawa Citizen, May 1 1978.
- “Bremerton Man Charged with Trying to Solicit Sex with 11-Year-Old”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, July 7 2009.
- “Bremerton Man Who Tried to Solicit Child Sex from Prostitute Sentenced”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, December 11 2009.
- “Feds Take Rare Kitsap Sex Trafficking Case”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, April 16 2012.
- “Remember When: Sept. 16, 2012”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, September 15 2012.
- “County Prosecutors, Police and Advocates Team Up to Battle Human Trafficking”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, October 10 2012.
- “Man Caught in Bremerton Prostitution Bust Sentenced to Nine Years”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, November 30 2012.
- “Bremerton Man Sentenced for Sex Trafficking”, Bremerton Patriot, December 2 2012.
- “Poulsbo Man Charged with Human Trafficking”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, January 18 2013.
- “Bremerton Man Faces Prostitution, Trafficking Charges”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, January 24 2013.
- “Bremerton Police Break Up Commercial Sex Ring Involving Minor Victims”, Bremerton Patriot, April 8 2013.
- “Bremerton Police Investigation into Sex Trafficking Nets More Suspects”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, April 9 2013.
- “Bremerton Man Arrested for Human Trafficking”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, April 15 2013.
- “Guilty Pleas in Local Human Trafficking Case”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, May 7 2013.
- “Oakland Man Charged Here with Human Trafficking”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, July 11 2013.
- “Kitsap’s First Human Trafficking Trial Opens in Port Orchard”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, November 13 2013.
- “Jury Finds Port Orchard Man Guilty of Human Trafficking in Historic First Trial”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, November 26 2013.
- “Bremerton Man Sentenced to 40 Years for Human Sex Slave Trafficking”, Sky Valley Chronicle, September 27 2014.
- https://komonews.com/several-illegal-massage-parlors-in-kitsap-co-busted-for-human-trafficking (2019)
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Vice Rampant Near Camps, Boom Towns”, St. Petersburg Times, February 8 1942.
- “What American Cities Are Doing; Anti-Venereal Disease Ordinance”, St. Petersburg Times, December 15 1944.
- “Coast Police Conduct Raid”, Spokane Daily Chronicle, February 4 1961.
- “New Sailors Shun Legacy of Rowdiness”, Seattle Times, January 9 1997.
- “Bremerton Police Sting Nets 2 Prostitution Suspects”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, September 21 2007.
- “Murals Change Face of Neighborhood”, Bremerton Patriot, July 4 2008.
- “Police Work Undercover to Nab Prostitutes”, Bremerton Patriot, July 4 2008.
- “Bremerton Police Shut Down Suspected Brothel for 2nd Time in Two Years”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, May 29 2009.
- “Man Arrested for Promoting Prostitution”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, January 24 2013.
- “East Bremerton Man Charged with Selling Cocaine from Prison, Pimping Women”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, May 1 2013.
- “Report of Stolen Gun Leads to Prostitution Charge”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, October 24 2013.
- “Bremerton Man Shot Self in Ankle During Attempted Encounter with ‘Backpage’ Girl”, Bremerton Kitsap Sun, December 11 2013.