North Charleston, SC

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

North Charleston is the third-largest city in South Carolina, with a population of approximately 115,000 residents. The city is located in Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester Counties in southeastern South Carolina. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented problems in the city, including cases where persons exploited in commercial sex have been raped, assaulted, or murdered by sex buyers, and others where sex buyers have been shot while soliciting prostitution.

Local sex trafficking cases have also involved children and the production of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM), often referred to as “child pornography. For example, in 2015, two people were arrested and charged in a North Charleston sex trafficking case involving a teenaged girl. The two were accused of  working together to transport a 17-year-old girl across state lines, from New York to North Charleston, to have her engage in prostitution over a year-long period from April 2014 to March 2015. Undercover police found evidence that they agreed to allow men to sexually abuse the girl in exchange for money. Both were indicted in federal court on numerous felony charges including coercion or enticement of a minor female across state lines for the purpose of prostitution; trafficking children by force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of sex; transporting a person for the purposes of having them engage in prostitution; and one was also charged with sexual exploitation of children, and activities relating to or material constituting/containing “child pornography.” The girl was threatened with only being fed once per day unless she made at least $500 per day “prostituting” and was also threatened with physical harm if she tried to run away or seek help. Prosecutors said that both defendants were aware the girl was under 18 during this year-long sex trafficking scheme, that also involved forcing the girl to perform sex acts on camera for the purpose of producing pornographic materials, and that one defendant had “child pornography” in his possession when arrested. The teenaged victim was placed in protective custody.

In response to these crimes and a wide range of additional problems inherent in the sex trade, and to address community complaints about prostitution, the North Charleston Police Department engages in an array of activities that include efforts to combat consumer-level demand for commercial sex.  Police have conducted periodic street-level reverse stings since at least 1989.  Some stings have been large in scale, resulting in the arrests of over 40 sex buyers in a single operation. The names, ages, and photos of those arrested are often reported in the media. In 2010, the commanding officer of the Naval Weapons Station in North Charleston was arrested after being caught in a prostitution sting by the North Charleston Police Department, and was charged with solicitation of prostitution. According to the North Charleston police report, the man approached an undercover officer “posing as a street-level prostitute” the morning of January 26, 2010, after circling the lot she was patrolling several times. The man told the officer he wanted oral sex and, when asked, said he was willing to pay $20 for the sex act. He invited her into his vehicle and she directed him to the rear of the building where officers were waiting to make the arrest. According to the NWS Public Affairs Officer, the sex buyer was temporarily reassigned to commander in the Navy’s Southeast Region in Jacksonville, Florida, pending the results of the inquiry.

In February 2018, two undercover North Charleston police officers took on the roles of prostituted women as part of an undercover sting, posting ads on to see whether sex buyers would respond. Once the ad was placed, police set up the sting at a local hotel. In one room the officers posed as prostituted persons. Officers on a “takedown team” watched via hidden cameras and microphones from a nearby room, and make the arrest after the sex buyer had attempted to exchange money for commercial sex.

The penalties for prostitution vary in South Carolina. The first offense carries a fine of up to $200 or 30 days in jail. The second offense carries a fine up to $1,000 dollars, up to six months in jail or both. A third offense is a felony and carries a fine up to $5,000, up to five years in prison or both. Local ordinances may impose different ranges of penalties.

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Neighborhood Action:

Web-Based Reverse Sting:

Background on Local Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State South Carolina
Type City
Population 114852
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