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Miami and its surrounding metropolitan area comprise the most populous metropolis in the southeastern United States in Miami-Dade County, FL. The county has a population close to 440,000 residents in the city proper and over 2.5 million in the greater metro area. As a major international trade port and tourist destination, the city has struggled with extensive crime problems related to prostitution and sex trafficking. Crimes occurring during prostitution transactions include rape, homicide, assault, drug trafficking, kidnapping, child endangerment, and child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in state criminal codes). An example of a local case occurred in May of 2021, when a Miami-Dade licensed real estate agent was arrested for money laundering and operation of two brothels within the county. According to the arrest report from the State Attorney Office’s Human Trafficking Task Force, the agent was had been running two brothels in Miami-Dade County: one disguised as a spa which was located next door to a child day care center and one operating out of an apartment in a luxury community in Dorla, FL. Authorities stated that the agent had been operating the illicit business for more than two years, and when arrested in 2018 for unrelated charges, had his daughter serve as the primary operator. The real estate agent told officials that he would recruit women through advertisements that he found on Craigslist. Officials suspected the agent of attempting to flee the country after he requested ledgers be destroyed, withdrew $25,000 in cash, and tried to get his passport through “hidden means.” Investigators intercepted the fugitive attempt and arrested the agent for more than hundred charges, including numerous felony counts for money laundering and one that lists over 75 counts of receiving sex buyers for the purpose of prostitution under Florida statute 796.07(c). In January, a man was arrested for forcing a woman into prostitution (which is, by definition, sex trafficking), and in another case, a woman was arrested and accused of operating four massage parlors and using them as fronts for prostitution.
In order to identify and recover victims, in addition to preventing the sex trafficking of adults and children, Miami law enforcement have concluded that investigations cannot simply target traffickers and prostituted women– they must also aim to curtail the underlying demand for commercial sex. The Miami Police Department and Miami-Dade County Sheriff’s Department have constructed an aggressive and multi-pronged approach to identify and apprehend sex buyers. Officers were among the first in the nation to implement frequent and large-scale street-level reverse stings in the early 1970s.
Operations are now routinely conducted, using teams of undercover female officers as decoys. As men attempt to solicit sex from the women, they are arrested by a backup team. For example, in April, 2012, the MDCPD conducted a series of street-level reverse stings known cumulatively as “Operation Dear John.” Police, utilizing several undercover female officers as decoys, arrested 22 male sex buyers in a single block. The Miami-Dade State Attorney, Katherine Fernandez Rundle said that the operation was a joint effort designed to put pressure on sex buyers, “feeding the bedrock of human trafficking.” The men’s names and other identifying information were not made public. In January, 2022, an undercover prostitution sting involving officers from the Miami and Coral Gables police departments netted a former Miami-Dade County prosecutor. The suspect approached two undercover police officers shortly before midnight at 44th Avenue and Eighth Street, and he agreed to pay $30 for a sex act at a nearby hotel. A spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office said the man was no longer an employee there when he was arrested. The sex buyer faced a misdemeanor charge of offering to commit prostitution; he was released on a $500 bond and his arraignment hearing was scheduled for the following month.
In addition to local, county, and state level efforts, Miami was one of the first 13 cities assigned an “Innocence Lost” task force. “Innocence Lost,” is a federal initiative to combat sex crimes against children through domestic sex trafficking or child prostitution operated by the FBI and the Justice Department. In 2008, there were a total of 23 task forces set up in cities around the country. Miami was one of the first cities assigned a task force due to the city having “one of the highest levels of juvenile prostitution in the country,” said Sgt. Kelly Sullivan of the Metro Dade Police Department Innocence Lost Vice Task Force. The FBI works with local law enforcement to plan stings targeting pimps/sex traffickers and to rescue minors, but they also conduct “prostitution reversal stings” targeting the sex buyers. Operations consist of numerous tactics, one being street-level reverse stings where decoy officers and a backup team arrest sex buyers once potential buyers state a price and sexual act. The sex buyers are then brought into the station to be booked and swabbed for DNA. “One of the main purposes of this detail is to get DNA on file from a lot of these sexual predators,” said Lt. Steve Czyzewski, of the Miami-Dade Police Department. “It’s a real effective crime-fighting tool.”
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
In addition to street-level reverse stings, the Miami-Dade vice squad conducts web-based reverse stings where officers search previously targeted websites and escort services. These stings are aimed at rescuing underage victims of sex trafficking, their pimps/sex traffickers, in addition to sex buyers. Upon arrest, sex buyers, who are not convicted for sex trafficking or sex trafficking of a minor and are first-time offenders, are eligible to enter a “John School,” whereupon successful completion, charges are dismissed. Additionally, in 2018, FBI agents along with county officials from Miami-Dade County and Broward County successfully rescued four teenage girls from alleged sex traffickers during Super Bowl LIV week in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Officials arranged an undercover meeting at a local hotel for after finding an online prostitution ad on the Skip The Games site. The prostituted woman officials met at the local hotel assisted in the rescue of four teenage girls who had been recruited and groomed on Facebook by the sex traffickers. The FBI reported that the victims were being sex trafficked online, with one victim appearing in over 250 online ads in Connecticut, Texas and Florida. Sex traffickers/pimps, particularly those arrested for cases involving minors are not eligible for John School programs.
Arrest of Sex Buyer; Identity Disclosure; Employment Loss:
In May, 2022, a former Miami Beach substitute teacher was arrested after police learned of allegations of him giving female students drugs for cash and sexual favors. The man had been fired by Miami-Dade County Public Schools in 2018 after an investigation showed he had sent inappropriate messages to students on social media. He had used Snapchat to sell marijuana, marijuana cards, nicotine and vape pens to students at Nautilus Middle School, and accepted cash or sexual favors as payment, according to WPLG. It was reported the offender sent and received sexual photos and videos from students. At least one 12-year-old was sexually battered, and other victims were between 11 and 14 years old. Law enforcement only became aware of the allegations in March, 2022, and arrested the man on charges of using a computer to arrange travel to meet a minor, human trafficking, unlawful use of a communications device, prohibited computer services involving a child, contributing to the delinquency of a child, providing nicotine to someone under 21 and selling nicotine to minors charges. The man was taken to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on no bond.
Miami-Dade County John School:
In 2008 a news report mentioned that many of the men arrested in reverse stings in Miami attended a john school program. In 2018, The Office of the State Attorney introduced Miami-Dade County introduced a pre-trial diversion (PTD) program for non-violent first-time offenders facing misdemeanor prostitution charges. The program, called Demand More, is the first of its kind for Miami- Dade County, and seeks to educate those charged with these types of misdemeanor violations about the dangers and realities associated with prostitution and human trafficking.
Demand More has two tracks: one for prostituted persons and one for sex buyers. For prostituted persons, it provides counseling and ancillary services to assist them in overcoming the challenges that have kept them in the cycle of prostitution. For sex buyers, it exposes them to their role in the perpetration of prostitution and the horrors of human trafficking. Overall the program aims at reducing demand for prostitution and sex trafficking through educational services for both prostituted persons and sex buyers in Miami-Dade County.
Communities in the City of Miami have been actively pursuing avenues to eradicate prostitution from their neighborhoods for decades. For example, in 1993, a group of neighbors who lived along Biscayne Boulevard in Miami, an area well-known for issues of prostitution, purchased and printed a billboard that read,
“Beware: If you are arrested for prostitution activity between 36th and 87th streets, your name and address will be placed on a Biscayne Boulevard billboard soon. The Communities of the Northeast are watching you.”
In addition to publishing the names of arrested sex buyers, their addresses were also planned to be included to avoid harming innocent people with common names. Neighbors hoped that this would deter sex buyers and reduce the demand for commercial sex and sex trafficking in their communities. In 2020, residents of the Flagami neighborhood, an area well-known for issues regarding prostitution and other illicit activities, began to take action to deter people from engaging in prostitution-related activities within the neighborhood. Residents reported having emailed the City of Miami numerous times without receiving a response. After a local news source spoke with concerned residents of the Flagami, the news source reached out to District 4 Commissioner Manolo Reyes in attempts to gather more insight into who the residents need to contact in order to have their concerns heard and alleviated. Commissioner Manolo Reyes commented, “They want to stop the traffic, but there’s a process. I welcome that process. I welcome that they start the process.” The process in which Commissioner Reyes is referring to, requires the neighbors to sign a petition to demonstrate that concerns are community-wide concerns, then a traffic study would have to be conducted, and then finally neighbors would have to vote on whether or not to block certain avenues. Residents of Flagami have reported being flashed, witnesses public sex acts, and stepping on used condoms. Residents welcome the challenge and have already started the process of reaching out to others to sign a petition.
Once apprehended, police may also have their vehicles seized and impounded, depending upon the circumstances of the arrest. City of Miami Ordinance #11445 and City of Miami Code, Sections 42-121 and 42-122 permits the Miami Police Department to impound vehicles utilized in soliciting prostitution and assesses a $1000.00 fine. The Miami Police Department reported that in 2003, under the Vehicle Impoundment Program, 50 vehicles were seized. In 2008, the city reported having accumulated $12 million dollars in impoundment fees since the ordinance passed in 1997.
SOAP (Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution):
Arrested sex buyers may be served with SOAP (Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution) orders, barring them from reentering four highly trafficked areas of the cities identified by a city ordinance as “Prostitution Zones”. For example, the Prostitution Mapping Program was first implemented in the greater Miami area in 2000, and between January and July of the same year, 274 prostitution arrests were made in South Beach, Miami, FL. In the prior year, 334 arrests were made in the entire region. In 2003, MPD reported that as a result of the Prostitution Mapping Program 30 arrests for prostitution and 23 convictions were made in the City of Miami that year. In addition, 66 arrests were made with the weekly crime abatement details. Since the implementation of mapping and weekly crime abatement details in 2003, the Miami Police Department reported prostitution to have significantly decreased. While the duration of the order may vary depending upon the individual’s prior arrest record, the majority of SOAP orders place offenders on probation for three to six months.
To further deter other would-be sex buyers, police release arrested men’s’ names to the public. The city’s shaming policy has been quite purposeful at times, e.g., in addition to encouraging media outlets to distribute arrestees’ names, city law enforcement began running the men’s names (only those who were convicted) on a local TV access program in the early 1990s. The decision to release the men’s names was the result of actions to “obliterate the demand,” in order to “obliterate prostitution.”
- “Flagami Counter-Prostitution Operation”, Case Study. Miami Police Department.
- “West Little Havana Prostitution and Narcotics Trafficking Activity”, Case Study. Miami Police Department.
- “Policewomen Trap Male Customers in Miami Crackdown on Prostitution”, St. Petersburg Times, August 25 1973.
- “Vice-Law Sex Bias Disputed”, Palm Beach Post, November 7 1975.
- “Vice Crackdown Ends in Suicide”, Miami News, September 30, 1977.
- “Prostitution ‘Sting’ Nets 18 Men”, Miami Herald, January 31 1983.
- “Six Men, Two Women Arrested as Police Break Up Alleged Prostitution Operation”, Miami Herald, June 6 1985.
- “74 Arrested for Soliciting Sex”, Miami Herald, September 18 1987.
- “Sergeant, 20 Others Charged in Prostitution Sting”, Miami Herald, December 12 1988.
- “Hook, Line, and Sucker”, Miami New Times, September 21 1994.
- “A Skid Row Sleepover”, Miami New Times, September 23 1999.
- “Decoy Drive Police Stings Clean Up Biscayne”, Miami Herald, July 16 2000.
- “Miami Police Officers Stung by Criticism of Prostitution Stings”, Los Angeles Times, August 3 2000.
- “Police Use of Sting Tactics in Historic Area Stirs Debate in Miami”, Washington Post, August 4 2000.
- “Undercover Prostitution Sting Snares the Mighty in Miami: Priest, Judge Among Those Caught By Undercover Cops”, Los Angeles Times, August 5 2000.
- “Veteran Officer Resigns Over Arrest”, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, September 13 2000.
- “Law Professor Charged with Soliciting Prostitution”, Miami Hurricane, October 25 2007.
- “Miami Vice: Inside ‘John Stings’ and Escort Stings”, ABC News, March 21 2008.
- “Police Clean House in Little Haiti, Model City, Northeast Miami”, Miami Herald, March 2 2012.
- “22 ‘Johns’ Arrested in Miami Sting: Authorities”, NBC/WJTV-TV 6, April 20 2012.
- “CBS4 Investigates: Sex Remains for Sale in South Florida”, CBS/WFOR-TV 4, May 15 2012.
- “Miami Drug and Prostitution Sting Puts 57 Offenders in Handcuffs”, Miami Herald, May 29 2012.
- “Former UM Lineman Ojomo, Now a Titan, Arrested for Prostitution”, Miami Herald, March 21 2014.
- https://www.local10.com/news/local/2022/01/26/ex-prosecutor-arrested-for-soliciting-prostitution-in-miami/ (2022)
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- Miami Vice: Inside ‘John Stings’ and Escort Stings (2008)
- Four Teenage Girls Rescued from Sex Trafficking Operation during Super Bowl LIV (2018)
- Real Estate Agent Arrest on Over 75 Counts of Receiving Sex Buyers for the Purpose of Prostitution (2021)
- Real Estate Agent Operating Two Brothels Recruited Women Through Craigslist Advertisements (2021)
- https://abcnews.go.com/2020/Miami Vice Inside John Stings (2008)
- Miami-Dade County: Pre-Trial Diversion (PTD) Program, Demand More
- Miami-Dade County Year in Review, 2018
- Miami-Dade County Year in Review, 2019
- https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-1993-06-21-9301190867-story.html (1993)
- Residents of the Flagami Neighborhood Seek Petition Signatures (2020)
- “Attorneys Attack Ordinances That Allow Seizure of Cars”, Boca Raton News, August 12 2000.
- Police Departments Across Florida Impounding Cars of Sex Buyers (2005)
- “Miami May Have to Refund $12M in Impound Fees”, Miami Herald, January 30 2008. (pg. 37)
- City of Miami Ordinance #11445 (pg. 247)
- City of Miami Code, Sections 42-121 and 42-122
- Miami-South Beach is a Prostitution Free Zone (2000)
- Anti-Prostitution Zones: Justifications for Abolition (2001) (pg. 1101)
- Prostitution Mapping Program: FY 2003 Results (2003)
- Miami: Cultural Geography, Rationale for Site Choice, and Evolving Expectations of the Study (2016) (pg. 3)
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure, Employment Loss:
- “Smile, Creeps, You’re on Public-Access TV”, Orlando Sentinel, August 15 1994.
- “Kansas City’s ‘John TV’ Exposes Prostitution”, Wilmington Star-News, July 13 1997.
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Kids Turn Prostitutes”, Boca Raton News, July 29 1971.
- “Teen Claims Several Youths Working Biscayne Boulevard; Possible Ring of Young Male Prostitutes Probed”, Miami News, June 22 1988.
- “Nearly 50 South Florida Arrests in National Prostitution Stings”, NBC/WTVJ-TV 6, November 10 2010.
- https://www.palmbeachpost.com/feds-man-brought-minor-to/ (2010)
- “Brothel Bust Nets Seven Arrests in Homestead”, CBS/WFOR-TV 4, June 17 2011.
- “Police: 2 Teens Abuse Victims”, Tampa Tribune, July 20 2011.
- “South Florida Human Trafficking Victim Shares Her Story”, CBS/WFOR-TV 4, August 17 2011.
- “South Florida a ‘Perfect Storm’ for Human Trafficking”, NBC/WTVJ-TV 6, September 16 2011.
- “Transportation Officials in Training to Spot Sex Traffickers”, CBS/WFOR-TV 4, March 1 2012.
- “Sex Trafficking of Children in South Miami Bringing Nationwide Attention”, Examiner, March 25 2012.
- “Sex-Trafficking Protection Law Signed at Miami Safe House”, Miami Herald, June 12 2012.
- “Four Charged with Running Foster Child Prostitution Ring”, Miami Herald, June 25 2012.
- “Foster Kids Would Leave to School, Detour to Brothel”, Miami Herald, June 26 2012.
- “For Victims of Human Trafficking, a ‘Life of Freedom'”, Miami Herald, June 27 2012.
- “Schools Work to Raise Awareness of Human Sex Trafficking”, Miami Herald, July 5 2012.
- “Miami Man Booked on Human Trafficking Count”, Baton Rouge Advocate, August 24 2012.
- “Sex Trafficking a Problem in Miami-Dade”, Miami Herald, October 1 2012.
- “Miami-Dade Leaders Tout Kristi’s House Shelter for Sex-Trafficking Victims”, Miami Herald, October 5 2012.
- “In Battled Against Teen Prostitution, a Fight Over Funds”, Miami Herald, October 26 2012.
- “Miami Man and Woman Forced 13-Year-Old Girl into Prostitution: Police”, NBC/WTVJ-TV 6, October 26 2012.
- “Miami Men Accused in Exploitation of Teen Runaway”, Miami Herald, November 4 2012.
- “Police: Basketball Coach Encourages Teen to Try Prostitution”, ABC/WPLG-TV 10, December 18 2012.
- “A Heavy Toll for the Victims of Human Trafficking”, CNN, August 28 2013.
- “Three Arrested in Miami-Dade for Forcing 13-Year-Old into Prostitution, Stripping at Club Madonna”, Miami New Times, January 8 2014.
- “13-Year-Old Girl Forced into Prostitution, Then Nude Dancing at Miami Beach Strip Club, Police Say”, Miami Herald, January 9 2014.
- “Trio Forced Girl, 13, into Prostitution, Exotic Dancing”, NBC/WTVJ-TV 6, January 9 2014.
- “Woman Charged in Teen Sex Trafficking Cries in Court”, NBC/WTVJ-TV 6, January 9 2014.
- “Jamaican Man Sentenced to 27 Years for Sex Trafficking in US, Australia”, News Release, U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, September 30 2014.
- “Hungarian Gay Sex Trafficking Ring Busted in South Florida: SAO”, NBC/WTVJ-TV 6, October 3 2014.
- “Man Pleads Guilty for Holding Girl Captive in Miami as Part of Brutal Sex Trafficking Ring”, Greenfield Daily Reporter, October 10 2014.
- “Brothers Charged with Trafficking Underage Girl,” CBS/WBFS-TV 4, March 3 2015.
- “Four Sentenced in Miami Prostitution Ring that Lured Hungarian Women,” Tampa Tribune, July 4 2015.
- “Witness Gave Inconsistent Narratives in Human Trafficking Investigation; Florida Keys Children’s Shelter Former Staffer’s Federal Trial Continues Next Week,” Florida Keys Keynoter, October 31 2015.
- “Gay Sex Slave Trial Exposes Hardships of Male Trafficking Victims,” New York Post, December 29 2015.
- “Inside Look at the Dangerous World of South Florida Sex Trafficking,” NBC/WTVJ-TV 6, January 29 2016.
- https://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article255369726.html (2021)
- https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/florida/articles/2021-02-19/man-woman-accused-of-grooming-florida-teen-for-prostitution (2021)
- https://www.publishedreporter.com/feds-two-south-florida-residents-indicted-on-federal-sex-trafficking-charges/ (2021)
- https://www.nbcmiami.com/prosecutors-announce-human-trafficking-prostitution-busts-in-miami-dade (2021)
- https://miami.cbslocal.com/authorities-arrest-man-accused-of-forcing-woman-into-prostitution/ (2022)
- https://www.nbcmiami.com/sex-trafficking-victims-text-to-dad-leads-to-her-rescue-in-miami-suspects-arrest (2022)
- https://www.local10.com/miami-dade-state-attorney-to-announce-arrest-after-human-trafficking-rescue/ (2022)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Crime in Miami: Just How Bad Is It in Reality?”, St. Petersburg Times, September 20 1966.
- “Six Arrested in Alleged Brothel Bus”, ABC News, June 26 2008.
- “Miami Prostitution Stings Net Many Repeat Offenders”, Miami Herald, August 16 2011.
- “Parents Arrested in Prostitution and Child Neglect Case”, Miami Herald, August 10 2012.
- https://miami.cbslocal.com/massage-parlors-prostituion-broward/ (2022)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Kids Turn Prostitutes”, Boca Raton News, July 29 1971.
- “Miami Police Push Prostitution Drive”, St. Petersburg Times, October 5 1973.
- “Police Suspended in Rape”, St. Petersburg Evening Independent, November 14 1973.
- “Inmates Call Cops ‘Rapists'”, Miami News, December 5 1973.
- “Police Indicted on Alleged Rape”, Lakeland Ledger, December 5 1973.
- “Bruise on Buckle Leads to Charge of Murder”, Miami News, April 23 1976.
- “Miami Laborer Admits Seven Sex Slayings”, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, September 9 1979.
- “Suspect in Rape-Slayings Says He Hates Prostitutes”, Palm Beach Post, September 9 1979.
- “Briefly; Man Not Linked to Murder Here”, St. Petersburg Evening Independent, September 15 1979.
- “Miami Prostitute Suing City”, Lakeland Ledger, October 7 1988.
- “Murder of 17 Women Baffles Miami Police”, Lawrence Journal-World, May 14 1989.
- “Rape Suspect Linked to Miami Death”, Gainesville Sun, May 17 1989.
- “Serial Killer Linked to Deaths of 3 Prostitutes”, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, November 22 1994.
- “Slayings Have Prostitutes Spooked”, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, December 1 1994.
- “Serial Killer Feared in Prostitute Murders”, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, December 15 1994.
- “Description May Lead to Serial Killer”, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, December 27 1994.
- “Police Say Slain Prostitute Was Victim of Serial Killer”, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, January 13 1995.
- “New Sketch Out After Prostitute Attacked”, Boca Raton News, March 5 1995.
- “Tamiami Trail Attacks”, Boca Raton News, March 5 1995.
- “Man Charged with Strangling 6 Miami Prostitutes”, Gainesville Sun, June 27 1995.
- “Salesman Confesses to Killing Six Prostitutes in Miami”, Sumter Item, June 27 1995.
- “Prostitute Hurt; to Change Lifestyle”, Lakeland Ledger, July 1 1995.
- “Prostitute Found Murdered”, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, December 1 1995.
- “Four Killed; Man Confesses to Florida Murder Spree”, Wilmington Star-News, June 5 1996.
- “Officials Seek Lead in Prostitutes’ Deaths”, Lakeland Ledger, January 2 2001.
- “Serial Prostitute Killer Sentenced for 5 More Slayings”, Rome News-Tribune, April 6 2001.
- “Man Sets Prostitute on Fire,” Miami Herald, July 10 2001.
- “Miami Man Charged in Transgender Prostitute’s Murder”, CBS/WBFS-TV 4, November 19 2012.
- https://www.cbsnews.com/arrest-womans-body-found-west-little-river-neighborhood-alley/ (2022)
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