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Lahaina, with about 13,000 residents, is the largest census-designated place (CDP) in Maui County, HI. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented problems on the islands in general, and in Maui specifically.
To address the consumer level demand that motivates all sex trafficking, demand-reduction tactics have been implemented locally. In 2007, the Maui County Police Department conducted its first street-level reverse sting operation, dubbed “Reversal of Fortune,” resulting in the arrest of 12 male sex buyers. The names and identities of the men were not released to the media.
In February 2020, police conducted a web-based reverse sting called “Operation Valentine,” using an undercover officer and an online ad for an “escort” service. The operation was conducted by the Maui Police Department’s Vice Gambling and Morals Unit, with the assistance of Lahaina Patrol officers, and resulted in the arrest of ten male sex buyers. According to reports, one man responded to the ad and exchanged 50 or 60 text messages (some including suggestive photos), starting at 6 a.m. February 8 and continuing until he was in the hotel parking lot February 12. He went into the hotel room where the undercover officer was and put $120 in cash on the table. He was then arrested by uniformed officers waiting in an adjacent room. After pleading no contest to a charge of prostitution, the man was ordered by prosecutors to pay a $1,000 fine and agreed to forfeit the $120 he put on the table at the hotel. Court records show that other men arrested in the operation were ordered to pay fines ranging from $500 to $750 after they pleaded no contest or guilty to prostitution. In addition to the arrests, officers also recovered over $38,000 in cash. The identities, ages, and charges of arrested sex buyers were included in reports by local media outlets.
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Lacking a Prostitute, Sting Nets Customers”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 19 2007.
- Maui Department of Police Proposed Budget Fiscal Year 2010 (2010)
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- Maui Reverse Prostitution Sting Nets 10 Arrests (2020)
- Man fined in reverse prostitution operation (2020)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- The Story of a Wailuku Prostitute (2014)
- Hawaii law on prostitution convictions is 1st in nation (2019)
- Lahaina Historic District (2019)
- Maui police arrest 10, recover $38K in prostitution sting (2020)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- Sex Trafficking in Hawai‘i (2018)
- Hawaii faces cultural roadblocks to combatting sex trafficking (2019)
- https://mauinow.com/shocking-reality-of-sex-trafficking-in-hawai-revealed-in-new-study (2020)
- Despite saving hundreds of sex trafficking victims yearly, Hawaii has few prosecutions (2022)
Research and Reports:
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