Monroe County, PA
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Monroe County is located in eastern Pennsylvania, roughly 50 miles southeast of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. Some cities in this county that have worked on addressing demand include Stroudsburg and Mount Pocono. Prostitution activity, often arranged online and occurring within local businesses and hotels, has been reported in the county for years. The activity generates community complaints to police, and associated crimes include the commercial sexual exploitation of minors. In October, 2022, detectives tracked down a sex trafficker based in Florida after he posted a prostitution ad online, and found one of his trafficking victims at a hotel in Tannersville. Officials said the trafficker abused the women and forced them to engage in prostitution in multiple states, from Florida to Pennsylvania and New York. He was convicted and sentenced to spend 33 years in prison on federal sex trafficking charges.
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. Demand reduction tactics used within the county include reverse stings and the disclosure of sex buyer identities. For example, in March 2015, the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office announced the completion of multiple web-based reverse stings targeting sex buyers in the area of Stroudsburg. Conducted between January and March, the investigations targeted online advertisements suggesting commercial sex. According to reports, law enforcement both placed and responded to listings, and arranged to meet the men and women who responded at a nearby hotel. The hotel reportedly offered to “host” the sting, and allowed law enforcement to install surveillance equipment to collect evidence during the operation. Six sex buyers were arrested as a result; some of those arrested allegedly attempted to exchange drugs for sex. All of the offender’s names, ages, hometowns and arrest photos were released to the public. In January 2017, detectives from Monroe and Wayne counties, along with state police, Bethlehem Township police, and Colonial Regional Police conducted an operation that led to the arrest of 3 alleged sex traffickers and 9 sex buyers. The sex buyers were lured to the hotel by detectives posting a fake ad on backpage.com. They were arrested and charged with patronizing a prostitute. Their arrest photos, names, ages, and hometowns were also released to the press. In July 2017 a prostitution sting run out of a hotel in Smithfield Township led to multiple arrests. Two people faced human trafficking charges, and several sex buyers were also arrested.
In July 2017, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office conducted an effort to deter sex buyers that was based on the web-based reverse sting model, but rather than pursuing the objective of arresting sex buyers, resulted in a brief effort to verbally deter them from future attempts to buy sex locally. Detectives began by posting two online ads for sex; responding calls started immediately and the phone rang continuously for hours in their office in Stroudsburg. The male callers, responding to online ads on backpage.com, were routed to one of three detectives with the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office running the unique operation called “Jamming for Johns.” Unlike the typical reverse sting, this one operated as a public awareness campaign. About 120 men called over eight hours, and received a warning that paying for sex is a crime that also fuels sex trafficking and the opioid crisis. The people delivering the message were Monroe County detectives who identified themselves as such. They then told the prospective buyers that if they had shown up to buy sex, they would have been arrested, charged with a crime, and had their name and picture published locally in various media outlets. The officers kept a log of every caller’s number, in case they arise in future investigations or stings. Another detective reached out to women who had ads on backpage.com, posing as an interested customer and then passing the phone to the executive director of Truth for Women, a nonprofit group that helps victims of sex trafficking. If the woman didn’t hang up, they were offered help through the therapeutic home for sex trafficking survivors, and provided the phone number to the national sex trafficking hotline, 1-888-373-7888.
In the third annual “Report on Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Pennsylvania” (2018) by Villanova University’s Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE Institute), Monroe was one of 10 Pennsylvania counties in which the number of individuals charged with violations of the state’s sex buying statute (§ 5902(e)) outnumbered those charged with violations of § 5902(a) for providing commercial sex since the state criminal code created separate offenses for buying and selling sex in 2014. The 10 counties were : Adams, Beaver, Bradford, Centre, Franklin, Lebanon, McKean, Mercer, Monroe, and Northampton.
In March, 2019, a man was arrested in Stroudsburg as the result of an undercover sting in which he arranged to pay to have sex with an 11-year-old girl. The 40 year old man was charged by the Monroe County district attorney’s office with attempted rape of a child, and a total of 13 felony charges. A prostituted woman who was arrested earlier in the month told detectives a man contacted her saying he was interested in paying her to find him a young girl to have sex with. Investigators found evidence of the conversation in the woman’s cell phone and were able to identify the man. Two detectives from the district attorney’s office continued the conversation, posing as the prostitute, and told the suspect they had found a woman who was willing to allow him to have sex with her daughter for $400. The detectives began posing as the child’s mother while talking with the man, who asked the detectives if they could also arrange it so he would pay the mother $100 every week to have the 11-year-old child perform a sexual act on him. The detectives arranged to meet in Stroudsburg, and the man was apprehended by investigators after he arrived at the meeting.
In August 2020, a man was arrested at a Monroe County hotel after contacting an undercover police officer in an attempt to solicit prostitution. The undercover officer had posted a fictitious online advertisement through which the suspect made arrangements to pay $200 for an hour of unprotected sex. Surveillance was set up at the Days Inn Hotel in Middle Smithfield Township before the suspect arrived and was arrested. He was charged with two misdemeanor charges of patronizing a prostitute. The name and mugshot of the arrested sex buyer were also shared online.
- Monroe County District Attorney’s Office
- Monroe County Sheriff’s Office
- Monroe County Drug Task Force
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Stroudsburg Area Prostitution Stings Net Charges against 16, Authorities Say,” Easton Express-Times, March 11 2015.
- “Human Trafficking Arrests in the Poconos,” Poconos News, March 12 2015.
- “Investigators Say Human Trafficking Is a Growing Problem in the Poconos,” NBC/WBRE-TV 11, March 12 2015.
- “Monroe County Hotel Prostitution Stings Lead to 16 Arrests,” Allentown Morning Call, March 12 2015.
- http://www.pahomepage.com/news/big-names-arrested-in-big-prostitution-bust-in-the-poconos (2016)
- “15 Arrested in Stroudsburg Prostitution Sting,” Pocono Record, July 1 2016.
- http://www.poconorecord.com/news/20170117/19-arrested-in-stroudsburg-prostitution-sting (2017)
- https://fox56.com/news/local/police-arrest-11-people-after-prostitution-sting (2017)
- https://www.mcall.com/mc-poconos-sex-sting-trafficking-arrests (2017)
- https://cseinstitute.org/Report on Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Pennsylvania (2018)
- https://www.wfmz.com/news/poconos-coal/man-accused-of-arranging-to-have-sex-with-young-girl (2019)
- https://www.pahomepage.com/police-man-arrested-for-soliciting-prostitution-in-monroe-county/ (2020)
- https://www.poconorecord.com/area-man-nabbed-undercover-prostitution-sting-poconos (2020)
- http://www.wfmz.com/news/poconos-coal/monroe-county-sets-up-online-prostitution-sting/ (2017)
- http://www.mcall.com/mc-nws-poconos-live-backpage-prostitution-sting (2017)
- http://www.wfmz.com/news/poconos-coal/monroe-county-sets-up-online-prostitution-sting (2017)
Background on Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- “Two Charged in Stroudsburg Trafficking, Prostitution,” Pocono Record, October 6 2015.
- “Human Trafficking Probe Launched after Chinese Woman Found in Poconos Massage Parlor,” Allentown Morning Call, October 26 2015.
- “Monroe County Man Pleads Guilty to Heroin, Sex Trafficking Charges,” Pocono News, November 25 2015.
- https://www.wnep.com/monroe-county/hotel-manager-sentenced-to-15-years-for-sex-trafficking (2022)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Stroudsburg Denies Permit to Spa Owner Charged in Prostitution,” Allentown Morning Call, May 6 1993.
- “Five Individuals Indicted for Operating a Multi-State Prostitution Network,” Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, May 17 2011.
- “Fourth Defendant Sentenced in Stroudsburg Prostitution Roundup,” Pocono Record, October 7 2015.
- https://cseinstitute.org/Report on Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Pennsylvania (2018)
- “2 Women, Minor Arrested in Prostitution Sting in Stroudsburg Area,” Pocono Record, June 4 2015.
- “Woman Brought Teen with Them on Prostitution Call in Poconos, DA Says,” Easton Express-Times, June 4 2015.
- https://www.lehighvalleylive.com/breaking-news/2015/06/women_brought_teen_boy_with_th.html (2015)
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