Maricopa County, AZ

Tactics Used

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

Maricopa County is located in Southwestern Arizona, and contains over 3,800,000 residents. It is the 4th most populous county in the United States and includes the state’s capital, Phoenix. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office uses reverse stings and sting operations to arrest those engaged in prostitution, solicitation of prostituted persons, or running a house of prostitution. A series of operations in 2003 captured 72 women and clients around the county. Officers targeted homes, massage parlors, and used female officers to draw men to three hotels. Names, ages, and hometowns of arrested johns were reported in the news along with pictures of the arrest and all the locations of the operations.

More recently, police have been working on dismantling child prostitution sex rings that advertise online, by conducting web-based reverse stings. For example, in December 2013, two female detectives posed as 16-year-old girls available for sexual exploitation, soliciting via online ads. The MCSO arrested 30 men attempting to buy sex from the detectives, one of whom reportedly stated that he wanted to have sex with the two girls before going to his daughter’s 16th birthday party. In July, 2019, twenty-five people in the Valley were arrested on child sex-trafficking charges in a multi-agency sting operation called Operation Summer Shield.  The arrests came after an undercover operation by the Tempe Police Department, the Mesa Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. The men arrested ranged in age from 19 to 63 years old, and they faced charges that include child sex trafficking, sexual abuse, luring of a minor for sexual exploitation, attempted sex conduct with a minor, furnishing harmful materials to a minor and possession of dangerous drugs. Undercover officers and detectives had placed ads on various websites and apps used by people interested in illegal sex acts with children. The suspects are named and pictured on a Tempe Police Department News release.

The city of Tempe currently imposes “order-out” restrictions on individuals repeatedly arrested for prostitution. Much like SOAP orders, city police may order a person to stay out of a specified place as a condition of his or her probation. Should he/she return to the area, he/she may be arrested and jailed for up to 30 days.


Key Sources

State Arizona
Type County
Population 3865048
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