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McAllen is a city of approximately 142,000 residents, located in southern Texas’ Hidalgo County, across the Rio Grande from Reynosa, Mexico. Local law enforcement has reported problems with prostitution in the community for several years, and residents and business owners have complained about commercial sex activity in some neighborhoods. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking. For example, in October 2022, McAllen police arrested a woman accused of attempting to sell a 12-year-old girl for sexual abuse. She was arrested on charges of compelling prostitution under the age of 18, according to Hidalgo County records. Cases of the targeted homicide of prostituted women have also been documented.
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. The McAllen Police Department has conducted periodic reverse stings since at least 2004. Operations are conducted at street level, using female undercover officers as decoys. In March 2007 and April 2009, for example, MPD officers arrested 11 sex buyers in two separate reversals. In more recent operations – conducted in October 2013, January 2015, October 2015, December 2015, and December 2017 – the MPD conducted “dual” stings targeting both sex buyers and sellers. Following their arrests, all individuals charged with prostitution-related offenses may have their names, mugshots, and/or other identifying information publicized by local media outlets.
In April 2019, a set of three sting and reverse sting operations resulted in the arrest of 10 males on prostitution charges and three for the online solicitation of a minor during a law enforcement internet operation. The operations were a collaboration between McAllen police and Homeland Security Investigations. In April 2022, the McAllen Police Department arrested six male sex buyers in an undercover prostitution sting. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were included in news releases in these and other operations.
Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex within the city. In April 2019, investigators arrested a custodian at Sharyland North Junior High after students said he offered to pay them for oral sex. Two boys said that the custodian touched them inappropriately and offered to pay them for oral sex, according to court records. A third boy witnessed the incidents. Investigators charged the man with two counts of prostitution-soliciting a person younger than 18 years old, a second-degree felony, and one count of making a terroristic threat, a Class B misdemeanor. Upon learning of these allegations, the Sharyland Independent School District initiated an immediate investigation. The custodian was terminated, and the allegations were reported to the Texas Education Agency and Child Protective Services as required by law. The former employee was subsequently arrested. If convicted of the felony charges, the man would face a maximum of 20 years in prison.
- McAllen Police Department
- Homeland Security Investigations
Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “McAllen Museum Chief Fired; Arrest in Prostitution Sting Leads Board to Oust Him Unanimously,” San Antonio Express-News, October 14 2004.
- “Six Men Arrested in Downtown Prostitution Sting,” McAllen Monitor, March 15 2007.
- “Five Men Nabbed on Prostitution Charges in Downtown McAllen,” McAllen Monitor, April 25 2009.
- “10 People Charged in Downtown McAllen Prostitution Sting,” McAllen Monitor, October 31 2013.
- “11 Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” McAllen Monitor, January 30 2015.
- “Several Charged in McAllen Prostitution Sting; Suspects Arrested in Downtown Area,” ABC/KRGV-TV 5, January 30 2015.
- “Seventeen Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” FOX/KFXV-TV 2, June 26 2015.
- “17 Arrested in South Texas Prostitution Sting,” San Antonio Express-News, June 29 2015.
- “Multiple Prostitution Arrests in McAllen; 16 People Were Arrested,” ABC/KRGV-TV 5, October 3 2015.
- “Photos: Police Arrest 3 Women, 11 Men during McAllen Prostitution Sting,” CBS/KGBT-TV 4, October 4 2015.
- “Photo Gallery: McAllen Police Arrest 12 in Prostitution Sting,” CBS/KGBT-TV 4, December 10 2015.
- “Prostitution sting results in 12 arrests.” The Monitor, December 15, 2017.
- “McAllen investigators arrest 12 during two-day prostitution sting.” December 15, 2017.
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://valleycentral.com/multiple-men-and-women-arrested-in-mcallen-prostitution-ring (2019)
- https://www.ktsm.com/9-arrested-in-undercover-prostitution-sting-in-south-texas/ (2022)
Loss of Employment:
- https://www.progresstimes.net/police-arrest-former-sharyland-isd-custodian-accused-of-soliciting-students-for-sex/ (2019)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Officials Close McAllen Park Known for Drugs, Prostitution,” San Antonio Express-News, August 8 1997.
- “Prostitutes Start to Walk Neighborhoods near Downtown McAllen,” McAllen Monitor, December 15 2007.
- “2 Arrested in McAllen Prostitution Sting,” McAllen Monitor, April 8 2009.
- “6 Women Arrested in Downtown McAllen on Prostitution Charges,” McAllen Monitor, March 20 2012.
- “2 Arrested on Prostitution Charges in Downtown McAllen,” McAllen Monitor, March 7 2013.
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
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