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Norristown is a city of approximately 36,000 residents, located about six miles northwest of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented problems in the city for decades. In a recent example, in 2018, at least four people were arrested and brought up on prostitution-related charges stemming from their alleged involvement with an inbound/outbound brothel, authorities say operated out of two locations in the municipality. The individuals were charged with promoting prostitution and related offenses. In 2022, a Norristown man who led a sex trafficking ring in the borough was sent to state prison after he admitted to his role in the organization. The man was sentenced to up to 10 years in a state correctional facility after he pleaded guilty to charges of corrupt organizations, trafficking of individuals for commercial sex, and other charges.
In an effort to reduce prostitution and sex trafficking activity in the city, the Norristown Police Department has periodically conducted street-level reverse stings to identify and apprehend sex buyers. For example, in 2012, the NPD and Pennsylvania State Police conducted a joint operation between the city’s West Main and Knox Streets. As sex buyers attempted to solicit sex from one of two undercover female state troopers, they were quickly arrested. The men, who ranged in age from 18 to 76, were charged with patronizing prostitutes, criminal solicitation, and disorderly conduct. As per NPD policy, all arrestees had their names and photos posted on the department’s website. In October 2013, police and state troopers collaborated on a second operation, this time intercepting 11 sex buyers. According to NPD reports, the 2012 and 2013 operations were staged along the same street corners and intersections, as these locations were determined to be “high prostitution areas” by law enforcement.
Web-based reverse stings have also been frequently employed. For example, in 2019, two undercover operations aimed at cracking down on prostitution led to the arrest of nine men. According to authorities, men from Philadelphia, Bucks County, and Montgomery County answered the online advertisements planted by detectives. “Hundreds of men” reportedly called or texted the undercover investigators and arranged a time and location, and finalized a price for sexual services.
In 1998, local media reported that Norristown Police had begun sending “Dear John” letters to the homes of men who were seen speaking to prostituted women or repeatedly driving through areas known for prostitution. At the time, NPD officers recorded the license plate numbers of these suspected sex buyers and mailed a letter of warning (notifying the reader that the car was seen idling in an area known for commercial sex sales) to the residence of the vehicle’s owner. It is unclear if this tactic is still in use.
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Norristown Prostitution Sweep Nets 6 Arrests; 17 alleged ‘johns’ cited”, Philadelphia Inquirer, September 12 1989.
- “37 Arrested Seeking Prostitutes”, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 13 2000.
- “News in Brief”, Philadelphia Inquirer, October 10 2000.
- “14 Men Arrested in Norristown Prostitution Sting”, Norristown Times Herald, October 17 2011.
- “Prostitution Sting Nabs 13 ‘Johns'”, Norristown Patch, November 8 2012.
- “11 Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Pottstown Patch, October 16 2013.
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- Dear john: Best to avoid red-light district (1995)
- Crackdown nets prostitutes and Johns (1995)
- “Sending Deterrent to Males Via Mail: Norristown Sent Letters to Men Seen Talking to Prostitutes”, Philadelphia Inquirer, November 4 1998.
- A correspondence course (1998)
- “Town Watch Is Restoring Peace to a Norristown Neighborhood”, Philadelphia Inquirer, August 20 2000.
- “Keeping an Eye on Norristown Area, A Local Landlord’s Cameras Keep Track of the Streets”, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 3 2003.
Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Prostitution:
- “From Red Light to Green Light: Montco Backs Norristown Renewal”, Philadelphia Inquirer, September 7 1990.
- “Two Norristowns: One By Day, One By Night”, Philadelphia Inquirer, July 6 1992.
- https://www.delcotimes.com/arrested-in-norristown-in-drug-prostitution-ring (2010)
- “Norristown Drug and Prostitution Ring Busted”, WNPV 1440 AM. (2013)
- http://www.timesherald.com/news/ (2013)
- https://patch.com/norristown-area-prostitution-sentencings (2015)
- https://cseinstitute.org/arrests-in-norristown-prostitution-ring-reveal-possible-trafficking/ (2018)
- https://www.timesherald.com/authorities-break-up-norristown-prostitution-ring (2018)
- https://www.fox29.com/man-25-arrested-charged-with-human-trafficking-promoting-prostitution (2021)
- https://www.pottsmerc.com/leader-of-norristown-sex-trafficking-ring-sent-to-prison/ (2022)