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Lafayette is a city of approximately 127,000 residents, located an hour west of Baton Rouge, LA. It is the government seat of Lafayette Parish, LA. Prostitution and related activity have been well-documented in the cities and surrounding areas. 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. For example, in February, 2019 the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office arrested seven women and two men during a prostitution and sex trafficking investigation. The arrests resulted from a 17-month investigation involving massage parlors and residences in the City of Lafayette and the Lafayette Parish, which began in response to complaints from residents and business owners. Deputies served warrants at five massage parlors and three residences in a coordinated sting throughout the parish. Detectives seized approximately $50,000 in U.S. currency, believed to be proceeds of the illegal activity, in addition to seizing five vehicles and a substantial amount of jewelry and business goods. In connection to the original raids, officials arrested an aide to Louisiana’s U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins (R) on two pandering charges, three days after the original investigation. He was initially placed on administrative leave, but later resigned from his position as a result of his arrest.
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 in the city and parish. To combat the demand for commercial sex, the Lafayette Police Department has been conducting street-level reverse stings since 1989, some operations resulting in over a dozen arrests. Operations typically employ the use of an undercover female officer as a decoy. Male sex buyers are then apprehended when they attempt to solicit sex. For example, in October of 1991, the LPD conducted a street-level reverse sting in Four Corners, an area of the city known for significant prostitution activity, that resulted in the arrest of 17 male sex buyers. During the investigation officials used audio/visual surveillance to record the arrests. Videos were used to identify male sex buyers and send “Dear John” letters to their residences, warning them of the legal and health risks associated with commercial sex. Once arrested, the men may be subject to SOAP orders (barring them from entering areas of the city known for prostitution) and/or community service. For example, in October, 1991, a second street-level reverse sting was conducted in which arrested sex buyers were barred from returning the area in which they were arrested. Since 1989, police have been known to release the names and identifying information of arrested sex buyers to the media. In addition, police officers have been known to seize the vehicles of arrested sex buyers and publish their names and other identifying information to the media.
In more recent years, officials have also been known to conduct web-based reverse sting operations. During these investigations, undercover officials post decoy ads on websites known for prostitution and communicate with potential sex buyers online, arranging to meet at a predetermined location. Upon their arrival to the predetermined location and agreement to payment, sex buyers are arrested by officers. For example, in late 2011, members of the Lafayette Police Department collaborated with officers from the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Department, Louisiana State Police, and Louisiana’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), targeting individuals attempting to sexually exploit minors online. Although no sex buyers were arrested, police successfully identified twenty online predators. In March, 2014, a web-based reversal led to the arrest of nine men seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. In 2015, a web-based investigation led by the Lafayette Metro Narcotics Task Force resulted in the arrest of five male sex buyers.
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Seventeen Nabbed in Prostitution Sting”, Baton Rouge Advocate, October 1 1991.
- “Nine Arrested in Hooker Sting”, Baton Rouge Advocate, October 5 1991.
- “Ten Arrested for Solicitation in Lafayette Sting Operation”, Baton Rouge Advocate, October 23 1991.
- “Police Cite Lafayette Board Member”, Baton Rouge Advocate, June 7 1994.
- “Lafayette Prostitution Sweep Nabs 27 Suspects”, Baton Rouge Advocate, August 30 1994.
- “SGA President at USL Arrested in Solicitation”, Baton Rouge Advocate, February 24 1995.
- “ACTION Unit Nabs 20 on Prostitution Counts”, Baton Rouge Advocate, September 19 1995.
- Arrests and Bookings in Lafayette Parish Correctional Center (2002)
- “Lafayette Police Arrest 19 on Prostitution Charges”, Lafayette Daily Advertiser, May 19 2003.
- “Prostitution Sting”, CBS/KLFY-TV 10, May 22 2009.
- “19 Men Busted in Lafayette Prostitution Sting”, ABC/KATC-TV 3, December 2 2010.
- “24 Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Lafayette Daily Advertiser, September 8 2013.
- 24 People Arrested in Prostitution Sting Operation (2013)
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 24”, Lafayette Daily Advertiser, September 9 2013.
- “9 Arrested in Lafayette Prostitution Sting,” Go Erie, March 4, 2014.
- “Lafayette Prostitution Sting Nets Nine,” The Advocate, March 11, 2014.
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- Nine nabbed in undercover operation (2014)
- Lafayette Prostitution Sting Nets Nine (2014)
- “Eight Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” The Advertiser, April 26, 2015.
- “Eight Arrested in Lafayette in Prostitution Sting; Operation Targets ‘upscale escorts and their clients’ who utilize social media,” The Advocate, April 27, 2015.
‘Dear John’ Letters, Cameras, SOAP Orders, Neighborhood Action:
- City police sweep nets 35 prostitution arrests (1991)
- Police continue to crack down around Four Corners area (1991)
- From the Beat – Lafayette Police Department and prostitution stings (1991)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “‘She Still Haunts Us’”, Lafayette Daily Advertiser, October 11 2009.
- “One Man Named in Sex Trafficking Case in Lafayette Parish”, ABC/KATC-TV 3, June 25 2013.
- “Lafayette Man Charged with Promoting Prostitution of Teenager”, Lafayette Daily Advertiser, July 17 2013.
- “Lafayette Police Say Runaway Was Being Used for Prostitution”, ABC/KATC-TV 3, July 17 2013.
- “Woman Wanted on Sex Trafficking Count Arrested”, Monroe News-Star, January 28 2014.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- Three arrested on vice charges (1968)
- Drugs drive Lafayette sex trade (2002)
- “Man Gets Nine Year Sentence for Prostitution Case”, KPEL 96.5 FM, August 17 2012.
- http://www.wlfi.com/content/news/Lafayette-police-bust-prostitution-meet-up (2018)
- https://www.theadvocate.com/acadiana/news/crime_police/article (2019)
- https://www.theadvocate.com/acadiana/news/crime_police/article (2019)
- https://www.knoe.com/content/news/Louisiana-congressmans-aide-arrested-in-prostitution-sting (2019)
- https://thehill.com/congressional-aide-arrested-on-pandering-charges-tied-to-prostitution-raid (2019)
- https://www.klfy.com/louisiana-republican-congressional-aide-arrested-on-pandering-charges/ (2019)
- https://www.klfy.com/lpd-arrests-new-york-woman-for-alleged-prostitution-operation/ (2022)