Middlesex County, MA

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

Middlesex County is a county in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with an estimated population was 1,590,000. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the cities and unincorporated areas of the county, such as Burlington, Cambridge, Framingham, Lowell, Stoneham, Belmont, and Woburn.  This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are child sex trafficking and the assault and homicide of prostituted persons. For example, in 2016 a Lowell man was arrested and in 2017 found guilty by a jury in Middlesex Superior Court for sex trafficking a child. The man had raped a 13-year-old girl and then forced her into prostitution, and had given her drugs to to establish addiction and control. He was charged with drug and sex trafficking charges, including two counts of aggravated rape of a child and trafficking of a child under the age of 18 for sexual servitude.  Other investigations have revealed larger prostitution rings and human trafficking networks that span multiple communities throughout the region and state (e.g., Andover, Cambridge, Burlington, Haverill, Lawrence,  Newton, Quincy, Stoneham, Tewksbury).

In March, 2021, police say a prostituting woman attacked a man in his shed after he backed out of buying sex from her. The 27 year old woman beat the 65-year-old man bloody, robbed him, and destroyed several items before her arrest in the incident in Ashland, MA. The victim called 911 shortly after. He told police that he had found an ad for the woman on a website for prostitution and scheduled her to come to his MacArthur Street home. When she arrived, she had a man with her, which upset the potential sex buyer. He told her he was no longer interested in her services and asked her to leave, and then she retaliated.

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.  To reduce prostitution and sex trafficking activity in the area, the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office, multi-jurisdictional task forces, and other law enforcement agencies at city, county, state, and federal levels have conducted reverse stings and other demand-focused tactics within the county. For example, In April, 2017, seven men were arrested for attempting to purchase sex from an undercover detective at a Cambridge hotel as part of a larger operation that led to a total of 29 arrests across the state, according to the Attorney General’s Office. In a push to reduce demand for commercial sex, the Attorney General’s Office partnered with the Cambridge Police Department and other cities to locate and arrest sex buyers. Attorney General’s Office  and the Massachusetts State Police’s Human Trafficking Unit had been working with four community police departments since March 2017 as part of a sting operation. The Cambridge reverse sting involved a hotel on Monsignor O’Brien Highway; police would not provide the name of the hotel. In each of the arrests, the female CPD detective lured the men by claiming she was someone who performed sex in exchange for money. All seven men who were arrested allegedly propositioned the undercover detective. Police would not provide specific details about how the detective lured the men, but said there was an “online component.”

In January 2018, five men were arrested during a reverse sting operation conducted at a Burlington hotel.  The reverse sting included the Burlington police detective unit, officers from the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office and the New England Electronic Crimes Task Force. Those arrested were charged with sexual conduct for a fee and arraigned in Woburn District Court.

Key Partners

  • Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office
  • Burlington Police Department
  • Cambridge Police Department
  • Lawrence Police Department
  • Lowell Police Department
  • Methuen Police Department
  • Woburn Police Department
  • Massachusetts State Police
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
    • Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
  • FBI

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Prostitution:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Massachusetts
Type County
Population 1589774
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