Marion County, OR

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

Marion County is a county in Northwestern Oregon with a population of approximately 346,000. The county seat and state capital are Salem, making Marion County part of the Salem metropolitan area. Documented prostitution and sex trafficking activity has occurred within the county for decades and led to numerous associated crimes and complaints from local residents and businesses. Residents living in areas affected by prostitution have reported being propositioned by potential sex buyers, having their children approached and propositioned by men, and finding hazardous remnants of sexual and/or drug activity strewn about the neighborhood. In the late 1980s, a syphilis epidemic occurred in Marion County and Portland that community health experts believed to be connected to the significant increase in commercial sex activity occurring in the county. Among the more serious crimes associated with the area’s commercial sex market is child sex trafficking.

In an effort to reduce the demand for commercial sex in the county, municipal and county officials have conducted both street-level and web-based reverse sting operations. The first known street-level reverse sting in the county was conducted by the Salem Police Department in 1988. In 1995, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office conducted a street-level reverse sting operation in coordination with the Salem Police Department that resulted in the arrest of six male sex buyers. In 2007, local police similarly conducted a street-level reverse sting that resulted in the arrest of six male sex buyers for soliciting prostitution. According to reports, the men were arrested after they had allegedly attempted to solicit sex from undercover female officers. The arrested sex buyers’ identities, ages, and images were released to the media.

In addition to street-level reverse sting operations, web-based reverse stings have also been conducted in the county. For example, in 2015, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office participated in a web-based reverse sting operation led by the FBI with assistance from the Keizer Police Department and the Salem Police Department, that targeted both prostituted persons and sex buyers in Marion County. As a result of the four-and-a-half-hour investigation, eight sex buyers were arrested on the charge of patronizing prostitution, one individual was arrested for prostitution, and another individual was arrested for prostitution and possession of cocaine. The identities and images of arrested offenders were included in reports by local media outlets.

Beginning in the early 2000s, local and county officials began to seize the vehicles of sex buyers who had been using their cars while attempting to solicit sex from undercover officers. For example, in 2001, the SPD with assistance from the Marion County Area Gang and Narcotics Enforcement Team conducted a street-level reverse sting in response to complaints from the Highland neighborhood association, which resulted in the arrest of 11 male sex buyers. According to reports, arrested sex buyers were also subject to vehicle impoundment, in which offenders were required to wait a period of five days to retrieve their car, pay a $60 impoundment fee, pay a $200 towing and storage fee, and sign a written agreement promising not to repeat the offense of soliciting prostitution again. In addition, the identities of arrested sex buyers were released and letters regarding information about their arrest and the harms of sexually transmitted diseases were sent to the sex buyers’ homes. A similar operation was conducted in Marion County in August 2001, which resulted in the arrest of 17 male sex buyers. Arrested sex buyers who had used their vehicles while committing the offense, had their vehicles towed.

Sex buyers have also been arrested through alternative investigations and as the result of residential reports to local law enforcement. For example, in July 2014, a manager at a motel in Salem was arrested by Salem Police and held in the Marion County jail on charges of promoting prostitution, prostitution, tampering with evidence, and interfering with police. Police determined in an investigation that the man was providing free rooms at the motel located on Commercial Street SE used for prostitution in exchange for sex. In 2017, Keizer police began investigating a man after they became aware of a prior sexual incident in which the offender had arranged to sexually exploit a 16-year-old girl in exchange for money through Skype. In response to this report, the Keizer Police Department initiated a web-based reverse sting operation in which an undercover detective posing as a 16-year-old teenage girl online engaged in text and phone conversations with the suspect, culminating in an arranged meeting at a truck stop. The offender had solicited the undercover detective for sex acts in exchange for money and marijuana. The man was arrested on charges of using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct, purchasing sex from a minor, first-degree online sexual corruption of a minor, and luring a minor. He had gone to the truck stop shortly after midnight and waited in a private shower room to meet what he believed was the 16-year-old girl he’d been texting and paying through PayPal. Detectives found the man in the shower and took him into custody without incident. He was found to have a previous conviction for prostitution in 1997 and had been sentenced to one-year probation. In April 2018, the offender was charged with online sexual corruption of a child, purchasing sex with a minor, and luring a minor. As part of his sentence, the man was required to register as a sex offender and attend a “john’s school,” structured in Marion County as a diversion program.

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred in the county. For example, in September 2013, an Oregon State Police detective resigned after he was found with a prostituted woman while on duty. Clackamas County sheriff’s deputies cited the detective after getting a report about a man and woman engaged in a sex act in bushes in southeast Portland. Since the arrest was the product of an investigation and not a sting operation it is categorized as an example of “buyer arrest” for the purposes of Demand Forum. The Oregon State Police agency headquarters is in Salem, and since the decision to terminate the employment of the detective was made by agency leaders, we have located the loss of employment in this city although the arrest occurred elsewhere and the employee worked for a statewide agency.

In May 2021, the former Oregon House Speaker (D-North Clackamas) was cited in an online sex trafficking sting along with seven other men. In a press release, the Portland Police Bureau said its Human Trafficking Unit planted ads on websites in April to attract people who would pay for sex. The legislator’s involvement was first reported by the Portland Tribune, which matched the man’s name, address, and age with one of the men cited. The man’s attorney said that his client “… denies the allegations, but respects the criminal justice process and will refrain from saying more until he has his opportunity in court.” Eight men were cited for commercial sexual solicitation, according to the bureau. The men were arrested individually when they arrived at the location agreed upon online. The Tribune noted that he voted for the law that was used to conduct the reverse sting. The man was also a board member at Clackamas Community College and the CEO and president of Columbia Public Affairs, a lobbying group. Effective immediately, the man was placed on a leave of absence from the board.

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:

Auto Seizure:

Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure:

Loss of Employment, Identity Disclosure:

John School:

Background on Local Prostitution:

Prostitution-Related Violence, Child Sexual Abuse Materials in the Area:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

State Oregon
Type County
Population 345920
Comments are closed.