|IT Based Tactics||✓|
Midland County is located in western Texas, and its name derives from its position halfway between Fort Worth and El Paso, along Interstate 20. Its population was roughly 175,000 residents. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented throughout the county, and in its largest city of Midland and nearby Odessa (in Ector County, also located on I-20), and have generated complaints from the community and investigations by police. For example, in a November 2013 case, two Houston residents pleaded guilty to child sex trafficking after being accused of bringing a 15-year-old girl to Midland to engage in paid sexual abuse (i.e., child sex trafficking). Police officers responded in August 2013 to a tip in Midland about a 15-year-old girl who had been assaulted by her pimp. The girl met the traffickers in Houston, who transported her to Midland and obtained a motel room for her to engage in prostitution several times in the days before Aug. 19. The girl was advertised online.
In order to combat consumer-level demand for commercial sex, police have included the use of anti-demand tactics. In October 2010, the Midland County Sheriff’s Office conducted an ad-hoc reverse sting as part of a larger investigation into suspected sex trafficking networks operating out of the city. Using decoy advertisements posted to websites like Craigslist and Backpage.com, officers set up a handful of concurrent sting operations, including one at a Midland hotel. A total of 10 individuals were arrested, including several male sex buyers. The men’s names and identities were not released to the public.
From December 24, 2017 to January 2, 2018, a web-based reverse sting produced the arrest of six men on charges of trying to pay for prostitutes. The men offered to pay between $100 and $120 for sex, using a “popular site” to arrange the transactions at a Midland hotel in 3100 block of West Wall. Once they arrived at the hotel, they were put in handcuffs and arrested, and each man was charged with trying to solicit a prostitute. Bonds were set at $500 each. An additional suspect was arrested at a different location by the Midland County Sheriff’s Office, and charged with trying to solicit a prostitute under the age of 18. The names of the arrestees were released to news outlets.
A reverse sting operation focusing on predators seeking to buy sex with children was conducted in Odessa and Midland, Texas in February of 2018. The reverse sting component was Phase 1 of a three-phase prostitution and sex trafficking operation resulting in 62 total arrests. “Operation Gauntlet” used online advertisement postings, texting and phone calls during three phases. In all, undercover officials received 12,329 total incoming messages and “chatted” with 1,361 unique phone numbers. The operation ran from Feb. 16 to March 3 and included local, state and federal agencies. Among those assisting were the Midland County District Attorney’s Office, Midland Police Department, Midland Fire Department and Midland County Sheriff’s Office. Seven men were arrested in Midland on second-degree felony charges of online solicitation of a minor under 14 years of age were, and their identities were publicly released. The arrests came during the Phase One two-day child predator sting. Undercover “chatters” posted online advertisements and communicated while posing as 13-year-old females. They responded to 6,095 incoming messages from 330 unique phone numbers during that part of the operation, according to the press release. The subsequent phases two and three also involved online postings and undercover phone communication.
In May 2018, a reverse sting operation resulted in the arrest of 45 individuals engaged in online solicitation of adults and minors for prostitution. The sting, named “Operation Pipeline,” took place during six days over a two-week period from May 21-June 2, was a collaboration including the Midland County District Attorney’s Office, Midland County Sheriff’s Office, Odessa Police Department’s Narcotics’ Division, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and units within the Midland Police Department. The mission involved online child exploitation investigations to determine the possibility of Human Trafficking and to identify and arrest prostituted persons, sex buyers, local child sex offenders, and to rescue any potential human trafficking victims.
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
- http://www.newswest9.com/six-men-arrested-on-charges-of-trying-to-pay-for-prostitutes (January 2018)
- https://www.mrt.com/news/crime/article/Prostitution-operation-results-in-7-Midland (March 2018)
- https://www.mrt.com/news/crime/slideshow/62-arrested-in-Midland-Odessa (March 2018)
- https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/article/Prostitution-operation-results-in-7-Midland (March 2018)
- http://www.cbs7.com/content/news/62-arrested-in-Midland-and-Odessa-in-Operation-Gauntlet (March 2018)
- http://www.cbs7.com/content/news/MUGSHOTS-Sixteen-arrested-in-Midland-prostitution-operation (June 2018)
- https://www.mrt.com/news/crime/article/MPD-arrests-45-in-Operation-Pipeline (June 2018)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Deputies Net Seven in Prostitution Busts,” Midland Reporter-Telegram, October 21 2010.
- “Two Lubbock Residents Arrested in Midland for Forcing Minor into Prostitution; Human Trafficking,” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, October 25 2010.
- “Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Prostitution Ring,” Midland Reporter-Telegram, May 6 2011.
- “Escort Service Owner to Serve 37 Months,” Midland Reporter-Telegram, May 10 2012.
- “MPD: Houston ‘Pimp’ Sexually Assaults Underage Prostitute,” Midland Reporter-Telegram, August 20 2013.
- “MPD: Woman Arrested for Assisting in Prostitution of Young Girl,” Midland Reporter-Telegram, August 21 2013.
- “MPD Sees Increase in Prostitution Arrests, Cites Booming Economy as Factor,” Midland Reporter-Telegram, November 19 2013.
- “Suspects Plead Guilty to Federal Child Sex Trafficking Charge in Midland,” Midland Reporter-Telegram, November 21 2013.
Background on Prostitution in the Area: