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Manassas is a town in northern Virginia with a population of approximately 43,000. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the town, surrounding communities, and in other areas of the county. 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 sex trafficking. For example, in August 2012, detectives from the Prince William County Police Department and agents from Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Customs & Border Protection concluded a two-year investigation into an alleged brothel, located on the 10000 block of Grant Avenue in Manassas. Among the nine arrests were five men charged with “frequenting a bawdy place.” The identities of the arrested men were publicly disclosed by police.
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. For example, in 2016, Prince William County Police arrested seven men while running an internet sting operation targeting individuals seeking sexual contact with minors. Detectives posed as juveniles on social media, when the sex buyers contacted the detectives and arranged the abuse, they agreed to meet, and when they arrived they were arrested. Charges include solicitation of prostitution and using a communication device to facilitate an offense against a child.
In August 2019, detectives from the Prince William County Police, Special Investigations Bureau conducted a Commercial Sex Operation at an area hotel in the Manassas area of the county. The objective of the operation was aimed to combat the illicit demand and solicitation of commercial sex services, which has a direct connection to human trafficking. During the course of the operation, undercover detectives created online advertisements designed to solicit commercial sex, which led to the contact of numerous potential sex buyers by phone and through social media. As a result, multiple suspects were identified and charged with offenses relating to the solicitation of commercial sex. The individuals arrested were identified in the news release, as were their charges in connection to offenses. The charges included solicitation of prostitution and frequenting a bawdy place. The code of Virginia defines a “bawdy place” as a building or structure that is used for lewdness, assignation, or prostitution.
In the August 2019 press release, the Prince William County Police Department stated that it remains committed to the fight against human trafficking and that anyone who solicits commercial sex plays a fundamental role in human sex trafficking by contributing to the need and demand of such activities. The Department, in conjunction with its community partners, recognizes that those who solicit commercial sex play an equal role in creating a marketplace that thrives on sexual abuse, violence, and child exploitation. In addition to enforcement, the Police Department seeks to continue community education efforts and awareness campaigns through partnerships with federal, state, and local agencies. The Police Department has conducted training at area hotels, local churches, hospitals, and other County agencies. Before the end of 2019, the Police Department planned to partner with the Blue Campaign to continue the educational objective at other hotels in Prince William County. The Blue Campaign is a national public awareness campaign, designed to educate the public, law enforcement, and other industry partners to recognize the indicators of human trafficking, and how to appropriately respond to possible cases.
Some arrests of sex buyers are the product of investigations of allegations against real victims, rather than resulting from reverse stings using police decoys. For example, in March 2022, a Prince William County man was arrested following an investigation into sexual assaults involving a minor in Manassas. The man allegedly solicited sexual acts from a teenage family member in exchange for money, over a nine-month period. Another family member of the victim contacted the police, which prompted the investigation. The man was charged with solicitation of a minor and sex trafficking.
- Prince William County Police Department
- Homeland Security Investigations
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Customs & Border Protection
- Blue Campaign
Brothel-Based Reverse Sting, Disclosure of Identities:
- https://patch.com/two-year-prostitution-investigation-yields-9-arrests (2012)
- https://washington.cbslocal.com/brothel-busted-in-manassas-nine-charged/ (2012)
- http://manassas.wusa9.com/119346-photos-9-arrested-prostitution-investigation-va (2012)
- https://wjla.com/manassas-alleged-brothel-busted-79365 (2012)
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure, Public Education:
- https://wtop.com/police-charge-7-after-running-sex-sting-over-internet/ (2016)
- https://potomaclocal.com/prince-william-charges-9-in-prostitution-sting/ (2019)
- https://www.princewilliamtimes.com/arrested-in-prince-william-prostitution-sting (2019)
- https://patch.com/nine-people-arrested-manassas-prostitution-sting-report (2019)
Arrest of Sex Buyer:
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