Lower Swatara Township is a community of approximately 10,000 residents in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Despite the township’s relatively small population size, cases of prostitution and sex trafficking have been reported. This activity and its ancillary crimes has resulted in complaints to local law enforcement by residents and businesses. Additionally, drugs and other crimes are commonly reported to occur as a result of commercial sex activity in the area. For example, in 2019, a woman was arrested in the township on a routine traffic stop because her brake light was out. Police discovered that the woman was on her way to a motel to engage in commercial sex with a sex buyer she had met online. The woman was charged with prostitution, drug paraphernalia and driving under suspension. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are child sex trafficking, child sexual abuse material (CSAM), and child endangerment.

Efforts to combat commercial sex activity have included those focused on reducing demand. Police have conducted at least one web-based reverse sting in the community, and the men arrested had their identities publicly disclosed. In December 2017, at least two men were each charged with one count of ‘soliciting a prostitute’ after being arrested in a web-based reverse sting conducted in the township by several Dauphin County police departments. The men were arrested at a local hotel, where they arrived to meet with an officer posing as a prostituted woman for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex.

In addition to reverse sting operations, police have apprehended sex buyers and sex traffickers as a result of residential complaints to local law enforcement and alternative investigations. For example, in 2022, the Lower Swatara Township Police Department led an eight month long sex trafficking investigation, that resulted in the arrest of seven individuals. Additionally, two of the five arrested individuals were charged for endangering the welfare of a child by delaying to report the missing child, authorities say. The investigation was initiated after police were alerted about the alleged sexual exploitation of a 13-year-old Dauphin County girl. The victim’s mother reportedly was contacted by her school that she was absent from class in December 2021. The mother did not immediately report her daughter missing because she had run away from home in the past. However, after receiving information from other family members via social media, the mother reported her daughter missing to police, claiming that her daughter had been lured into a sex trafficking operation. In response to the mother’s report, police began the what resulted in an eight month investigation, the discovery of a sex trafficking ring, and the arrest of seven individuals. Individuals were arrested on various child sex trafficking charges including but not limited to the following felony charges: Lure Child into Motor Vehicle (F2), Sexual Exploitation of Children (F2), Possession of Child Pornography (F3), Unlawful Contact with a Minor-Sexual Offense (F3); Corruption of Minors (F3); and Kidnapping of a Minor (F1). Lower Swatara Township Police Department stated that the investigation involved multiple jurisdictions. The identities and images of arrested offenders were included in reports by local media outlets.