Lawrence County, PA

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Lawrence County is a county located in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, United States. The population is roughly 87,000 residents, 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 when approached by a uniformed officer, both women 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 sting that resulted in the arrest of six prostituted women 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 sex buyers’ 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 prostitution 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 sex buyers versus prostituted persons) 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

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaging in Commercial Sex:

State Pennsylvania
Type County
Population 86070
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