Lawrence County, PA

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

Lawrence County is a county located in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, United States. The population is roughly 87,000, and the county seat is New Castle (which contains about half of the county’s population). Lawrence County makes up the entire New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, and is included in the larger Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-WV-OH Combined Statistical Area. Law enforcement agencies have reported complaints from the community about prostitution, and problems generated by street prostitution, since the 1990s.  For example, in 2007, New Castle police charged two women with prostitution in the city’s second undercover sting. Both women were arrested in the parking lot of a liquor store. Police said the women were arrested separately, but both, when approached by a uniformed officer, tried to claim a friend was picking them up. The man in the car was an undercover police officer. One of the women arrested had been arrested two weeks previously in a separate undercover string that netted six women charged with prostitution on the city’s south side. In June, 2017, undercover New Castle police charged three women with prostitution; all three were identified in news reports, and all were issued summonses and preliminary hearings were scheduled. The women approached an undercover officer in three separate South Side locations, and on each occasion, the women entered the officer’s unmarked car and agreed to perform a sex act and agreed on a price to do it. In July 2017, a woman wanted on a felony warrant for theft-related charges was arrested in Dean Park for alleged prostitution. Cases of homicides of prostituted women in the county have also been documented.

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.  New Castle Police Department and Pennsylvania State Police have conducted at reverse stings conducted at street level, using female undercover officers as decoys. Following the operations, all of the john’s names are released the public.  For example, in April 2012, an operation — which featured a female state trooper as the decoy– resulted in the arrest of five male sex buyers.  State police filed charges of patronizing prostitutes against five men, whose identities were included in press releases.  The operation was conducted  along Mill Street in New Castle by state police, New Castle police, and the Lawrence County Drug Task Force.   State police said the area had been identified as a location for prostitution activity.  The town of Washington has also conducted reverse stings within the county.  At least two reverse stings occurred in Washington between 2010 and 2012. The identities of the arrestees, along with their ages and addresses, were released by police and published in news accounts. News archives indicate that the first reverse sting in the city occurred in 1976.

In the Spring of 2016 a report was released by the Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Pennsylvania at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. The report presented county-level data on arrests for purchasing sex in Pennsylvania (the state has separate statutes for buying versus selling sex) during calendar years 2014-2015. The report’s data comes from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, and during 2014-2015 there were four arrests in Lawrence County that were charged under the statute for purchasing sex (18 Pa.C.S. § 5902(e)). It is important to note that there may have been larger numbers of sex buyer arrests, since some cities and counties choose to handle such cases by issuing civil citations for violating local prostitution ordinances rather than charging with violating state criminal law.

Key Partners

  • New Castle Police Department
  • Lawrence County Drug Task Force Special Investigations Unit
  • Washington Police Department
  • Pennsylvania State Police

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings with Shaming:

Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:

  • “5 Charged in Sex Ring,” Philadelphia Daily News, December 9 1983.
  • “Prostitution Causes Problems,” Washington Observer-Reporter, May 27 1994.
  • “Six Facing Prostitution Charges Following Sting,” New Castle News, November 1 2001.
  • “Dear Johns…,” New Castle News, November 17 2001.
  • “City Woman Faces Prostitution Charge,” New Castle News, January 15 2002.
  • “Three Arrested for Prostitution,” New Castle News, May 10 2006.
  • “Three Plead Guilty to Prostitution,” New Castle News, June 27 2007.
  • “Two Face Prostitution Charges,” New Castle News, August 26 2009.
  • “Three Arrested for Alleged Prostitution,” New Castle News, April 24 2012.
  • “Two Charged in Prostitution Case,” New Castle News, February 28 2013.
  • “Two Women Face Prostitution Charges,” New Castle News, June 21 2013.
  • “Woman Arrested for Prostitution,” New Castle News, June 26 2013.
  • “Woman Charged for Drugs, Prostitution,” New Castle News, June 28 2013.
  • “Police Charge Women with Prostitution,” New Castle News, July 9 2013.
  • “Woman Arrested for Prostitution,” New Castle News, July 17 2013.
  • “Woman Charged with Prostitution,” New Castle News, August 17 2013.
  • “Woman Faces Prostitution Charge,” New Castle News, February 13 2014.
  • “Woman Facing Prostitution, Drug Charges,” New Castle News, April 9 2014.
  • “Man, Woman Face Prostitution Charge,” New Castle News, June 20 2014.
  • “Woman Charged with Prostitution,” New Castle News, July 10 2014.
  • (2017)
  • (2017)
  • (2017)


Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:


State Pennsylvania
Type County
Population 87069
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