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Lowell is an older industrial city of about 114,000 residents, located approximately 30 miles northeast of Boston, MA. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city, and Lowell has been an area of operation for larger prostitution rings and human trafficking networks that span multiple communities (e.g., Lawrence, Tewksbury, Andover, Haverill), states, and countries. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses.
Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is child sex trafficking, and the rape and homicide of prostituted and trafficked women. For example, in 2016 a Lowell man was arrested and in 2017 found guilty by a jury in Middlesex Superior Court for sex trafficking a child. The man had raped a 13-year-old girl and then forced her into prostitution, and had given her drugs to to establish addiction and control. He was charged with drug and sex trafficking charges, including two counts of aggravated rape of a child and trafficking of a child under the age of 18 for sexual servitude. He was sentenced to a state prison term of 15 years to life. In 2018, one of the men who paid to sexually abuse the child was sentenced to a prison term of up to nine years after pleading guilty to two counts of rape of a child with force, two counts of statutory rape of a child, and one count each of sexual conduct for a fee and distribution of a Class B substance to a minor. The man and his two brothers, all from Lowell, were arrested on child rape charges in 2014. These cases involving the 13-year-old girl were part of a larger human trafficking criminal enterprise. The offender and four other individuals were found by investigators and prosecutors to have lured vulnerable women into commercial sexual acts by providing them with a steady stream of drugs and then requiring them to reach a ‘quota for encounters’ each night. Five people were charged in schemes in a crackdown announced by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office in 2016. Investigators found that twice a day or more, traffickers allegedly gave women a drug like fentanyl before dropping them off to engage in sex for a fee and setting a prostitution quota. The marketing of prostitution with the victims included ads for “gangbang parties” and charging people an entrance fee. The money paid by the men was then allegedly funneled to the traffickers, leveraging the victim’s opioid addiction. Grand jury indictments included multiple counts of trafficking in persons for sexual servitude, deriving support from prostitution, and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. In a separate case in 2018, a Lowell woman who was involved in prostitution in the Lowell/Lawrence area was murdered. A female pimp had lured the 19-year-old victim into prostitution with the promise of money, but later conspired with two men to rob her at a Braintree hotel, in a scheme that resulted in the victim’s death.
To combat prostitution and sex trafficking in the area, local law enforcement agencies have targeted consumer-level demand, which provides the revenue stream driving all prostitution and trafficking. To identify and apprehend local sex buyers, the Lowell Police Department has conducted street-level reverse stings, some in direct response to complaints from businesses and residents, and others connected with sex trafficking investigations. From 2010 to 2013, the Lowell Police Department conducted reverse stings at least four times per year, according to police sources, and sometimes did them on a monthly basis. An operation in August 2012 led to the arrest of seven men. These arrests occurred after the state of Massachusetts passed a new human trafficking law that included provisions allowing for relatively harsh penalties for buying sex: a term of up to 2.5 years in prison, and a minimum fine of $1,000 and a maximum fine of $5,000 (prior prostitution laws allowed for maximums of only one year in prison and fines up to $500). However, news coverage of this group of arrestees report that six of the seven men were allowed to pay fines of $150 covering court costs and then have their charges dismissed (the seventh sex buyer paid a $500 fine). From 2015 through 2018, street-level prostitution stings were less frequent, in favor of investigating sex trafficking, but still occurred more than once per year, and the identities of arrested sex buyers were usually publicized by police. For example, in 2017 there were two street-level operations that involved both sting and reverse sting elements. In February, Lowell police arrested four men and two women on prostitution charges. In October 2017, the second major prostitution sting of the year was conducted near Cupples Square, and police arrested four men and six women on prostitution-related charges. The operation was conducted by the detectives from the Lowell PD Special Investigations Section in response to complaints from residents in the area, the department said in a statement. The four men were charged with soliciting a prostitute, and their identities were included in news reports.
National Assessment Survey (2012)
Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Seven Charged in ‘Johns’ Sweep”, Lowell Sun, September 27 2001.
- “NMRHS Administrator on Leave Following Arrest”, Townsend Times, October 23 2001.
- “7 Nabbed in Prostitution Sweep”, Lowell Sun, February 23 2002.
- “Three Charged in Lowell Prostitution Sweep”, Lowell Sun, November 10 2002.
- “Police Briefs”, Lowell Sun, November 3 2003.
- “Plan to Raise Fine for Those Soliciting Sex Urged in the Lowell Area”, Lowell Sun, February 8 2006.
- “Police Ask Residents to Help Stop Crime”, Lowell Sun, July 19 2007.
- “14 Nabbed in City Prostitution Sting”, Lowell Sun, July 20 2007.
- “Names Released in Vice Sweep”, Lowell Sun, July 21 2007.
- “Cable Chief Arraigned on Charges of Soliciting Sex”, North Andover Eagle Tribune, February 12 2008.
- “11 Charged in Prostitution Sweep”, Lowell Sun, March 8 2008.
- “11 Men Busted in Lowell Sex Sting”, Lowell Sun, June 3 2008.
- “7 ‘Johns’ Snared in Prostitution Sting”, Lowell Sun, September 13 2008.
- “Prostitution Sweep Nets at Least Nine Arrests in Lowell”, Lowell Sun, August 14 2009.
- “Lowell Police Arrest ‘Johns’ in Sting”, Lowell Sun, September 1 2009.
- “Prostitution Sting in Lowell Nets 16 Arrests”, Lowell Sun, June 26 2012.
- “Sex Sting Cheered by Downtown Businesses”, Lowell Sun, July 13 2012.
- “Eighteen Arrested in Lowell Prostitution Sweep”, Boston Globe, August 24 2012.
- “Sex Sting Leads to Minimal Penalties”, Lowell Sun, September 2 2012.
- “Eight of 10 Facing Prostitution-Related Charges Plead Not Guilty”, Lowell Sun, October 6 2014.
- “Not-Guilty Pleas in Lowell Prostitution Sting”, Lowell Sun, October 7 2014.
- http://www.lowellsun.com/ten-arrested-lowell-prostitution-charges (2017)
- https://www.lowellsun.com/eight-arrested-in-lowell-prostitution-sweep (2022)
- https://www.lowellsun.com/lowell-police-conduct-prostitution-sting-in-back-central/ (2023)
Background on Local Sex Trafficking:
- “Lowell Man Charged in Boy’s Death”, Boston Globe, May 2 1989.
- “Lowell Man Indicted in Boy’s Death”, Boston Globe, May 17 1989.
- “News in Brief: Lowell Man Arrested in N.J. Prostitution Case”, Boston Herald, March 11 1995.
- “Prostitution Probe Widens; Police: Lowell Man Preyed on Runaways”, Boston Herald, March 12 1995.
- “Lowell Pimp Has ‘Notorious’ Record”, Boston Herald, March 14 1995.
- “Cops Say Alleged Pimp Dragged Girl to N.J.”, Boston Herald, April 7 1995.
- “Man Jailed on Prostitution Law”, Boston Globe, December 19 1995.
- “Lowell Man Charged with Using Girls in Prostitution Ring”, Boston Globe, November 13 1997.
- “Man Accused of Running Teenage Prostitution Ring”, Orlando Sentinel, November 13 1997.
- “Alleged Lowell Pimp Charged with Child Rape”, Boston Herald, December 18 1997.
- “Portrait of a Predator; Lowell Man Allegedly Lured Runaway Girls”, Boston Globe, February 3 1998.
- “Man Indicted for Luring Underage Runaways into Prostitution Ring”, Lewiston Sun Journal, February 4 1998.
- “Lowell Couple Accused of Pimping Young Girls”, Boston Herald, March 11 1998.
- “Lowell Pimp Convicted of Preying on Young Girls”, Boston Herald, November 19 1998.
- “Lowell Woman Held in Sex-Trafficking Case,” Lowell Sun, April 3 2015.
- “Lowell Man Facing Human-Trafficking Charges Held on High Bail,” Lowell Sun, January 28 2016.
- http://www.bostonherald.com/lowell_man_with_horrendous_record_arraigned_on_sex_trafficking (2016)
- https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/lowell-man-sentenced-for-prostituting-year-old-girl (2017)
- https://www.necn.com/news/new-england/2-Men-Charged-With-Human-Sex-Trafficking-in-Lowell-Mass (2018)
- http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/lowell-man-sentenced-minimum-5-years-human-trafficking (2018)
- https://www.nbcboston.com/lowell-massachusetts-man-facing-sex-trafficking-prostitution-charges (2021)
- https://www.bostonglobe.com/lowell-man-charged-with-human-trafficking-deriving-support-prostitution (2021)
- https://whdh.com/lowell-man-arrested-on-human-trafficking-prostitution-charges (2021)
- https://www.universalhub.com/man-charged-trafficking-two-women (2022)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the City:
- “Lowell Man Names 2 in ’78 Murder of Gay”, Boston Globe, March 5 1980.
- “Accuser Tells of ’92 Rape by 4 in Lowell”, Boston Globe, September 22 1993.
- “4 Found Guilty of Rape in Lowell; Struggle Ensues After Bail Revoked”, Boston Globe, September 29 1993.
- “4 Men Sentenced to State Prison for Kidnap and Rape of Woman”, Boston Herald, October 21 1993.
- “Four Men Get Prison for Raping Prostitute”, Boston Globe, October 21 1993.
- “SWAT Team Nabs Rape Suspect Following Standoff in Lowell”, Boston Herald, June 23 1995.
- “Homeless Man Charged in Rape, Robbery of Prostitute”, Lowell Sun, April 22 2002.
- “City Man Pleads Innocent to Raping Prostitute at Gunpoint”, Lowell Sun, June 6 2002.
- “Lowell Man Gets Nine Years for Brutal Rape”, Lowell Sun, March 30 2003.
- “Lowell Man Convicted in Rape of Prostitute”, Lowell Sun, July 19 2003.
- “Man Who Terrorized Prostitutes Back in Prison on Sex Charge”, Lowell Sun, August 27 2005.
- “Deals, Dangers on Craigslist: Greater Lowell Police Say Killing Is a Wake-Up Call”, Lowell Sun, April 24 2009.
- “Lowell Police Officer Arraigned on Rape Charges”, Boston Globe, July 12 2011.
- http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/lowell-man-sentenced-minimum-5-years-human-trafficking (2018)
- http://www.patriotledger.com/murder-of-19-year-old-in-braintree-tied-to-sex-trafficking (2018)
Background on Local Prostitution:
- “Lowell Man Charged with Running Prostitution Ring Out of His Home”, Boston Globe, February 24 2012.
- “Soliciting Charge for Priest”, Boston Globe, August 6 2013.
- “Priest Admits to Soliciting Prostitute”, Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise, September 21 2013.