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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 Backpage.com 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.
Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Eight Charged in Prostitution Investigation”, Charleston News and Courier, April 20 1990.
- “40 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Charleston Post and Courier, November 14 1992.
- “20 Men Arrested for Solicitation”, Charleston Post and Courier, March 7 1994.
- “Police Arrest 19 in Reverse Sting”, Charleston Post and Courier, January 14 1995.
- “Police Bust 12 for Solicitation”, Charleston Post and Courier, December 29 1996.
- “Prostitution Sting Nabs Officer, 23 Others”, Charleston Post and Courier, April 13 1997.
- “Undercover Prostitute Sting Nets 67 Arrests”, Charleston Post and Courier, July 26 1997.
- “Agents Arrest 20 Men in Prostitution Sting”, Charleston Post and Courier, April 28 1998.
- “15 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sweep”, Charleston Post and Courier, September 28 1998.
- “13 Men Accused of Trying to Hire Sex”, Charleston Post and Courier, December 12 1998.
- “Police Arrest 9 Men in Prostitution Sting”, Charleston Post and Courier, July 13 1999.
- “More Than 20 Suspects Caught in North Charleston Prostitution Sting”, Charleston Post and Courier, August 10 1999.
- “North Charleston Arrests 42 in Anti-Prostitution Stings”, Charleston Post and Courier, February 15 2000.
- “Correction”, Charleston Post and Courier, August 3 2000.
- “Ex-Councilman Faces Charges of Solicitation for Prostitution”, Charleston Post and Courier, October 2 2001.
- “Undercover Prostitution Sting Nets Nine Arrests”, Charleston Post and Courier, December 22 2001.
- “Wildlife Officer Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Charleston Post and Courier, March 4 2003.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 8 Men, 1 Wife”, Charleston Post and Courier, August 28 2007.
- “5 Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Charleston Post and Courier, February 10 2009.
- “Police Arrest 19 for Prostitution”, CBS/WCSC-TV 5, March 11 2009.
- “Police Blotter: North Charleston Sting Nets 10”, Charleston Post and Courier, July 23 2009.
- “8 Arrested in Drug, Prostitution Sting”, Charleston Post and Courier, September 16 2009.
- “Charleston Naval Commander Caught in Prostitution Sting”, WIS-TV 10, January 28 2010.
- “Navy Officer Gets Pre-Trial Program for SC Arrest”, WPDE-TV 15, July 1 2010.
- “Undercover Operation Results in 15 Prostitution Arrests”, ABC/WCIV-TV 4, June 6 2011.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets Arrests in North Charleston”, Charleston Post and Courier, June 25 2011.
- “7 Arrested in N. Chas Prostitution Sting”, Charleston Post and Courier, July 16 2011.
- “3 Arrested on Solicitation for Prostitution Charges”, CBS/WCSC-TV 5, February 29 2012.
- “Prostitution Sting in North Charleston Results in Four Arrests”, Charleston Post and Courier, March 17 2014.
- “Nine Face Prostitution Charges in North Charleston Police Sting,” Charleston Post and Courier, December 18 2015.
Web-Based Reverse Sting:
Background on Local Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation:
- “Woman Accused of Prostituting Girl”, Charleston Post and Courier, December 24 1997.
- “Man Offers Teen Cash, Goods for Sex, Police Say”, Charleston Post and Courier, July 26 2002.
- “Woman Arraigned on Five Charges in Human Trafficking Case”, Charleston Post and Courier, January 24 2011.
- “Captivity Suspect Pleads Not Guilty: Woman Faces 5 Charges in Human Trafficking Case”, Charleston Post and Courier, January 25 2011.
- “North Charleston Woman Gets Plea Deal in Human Trafficking Case”, Charleston Post and Courier, May 24 2011.
- “Captivity Suspect Accepts Plea Deal”, Charleston Post and Courier, May 25 2011.
- http://www.live5news.com/n-charleston-police-arrest-7-in-prostitution-sting (2017)
- http://abcnews4.com/news/local/north-charleston-and-sled-arrest-6-women-for-prostitution (2017)
- http://foxcharleston.com/seven-arrested-in-north-charleston-prostitution-sweep/ (2017)
- https://abcnews4.com/news/local/eight-arrested-for-prostitution-in-north-charleston (2018)
- https://www.live5news.com/police-n-charleston-prostitution-sting-yields-9-arrests/ (2018)
- https://www.counton2.com/crime-in-north-charleston-mobile-home-community-causing-concern/ (2023)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Suspect Named in Murder of Hanahan Woman”, CBS/WCSC-TV 5, April 13 2009.
- “Pastor Accused in 2 Rapes”, Charleston Post and Courier, August 4 2011.
- “Man Told Police He Was Shot While Searching for a Prostitute”, Charleston Post and Courier, March 25 2013.
- “Police Provide Descriptions of Suspects in Escort Murder; 911 Call Released,” CBS/WCSC-TV 5, August 12 2013.
- “Report: Prostitute Attacked after Stopping Sex Act Due to Irregularity,” CBS/WCSC-TV 5, October 22 2013.
- “Police: Man Shoots Other Man in Prostitution Deal over Fake Cash,” CBS/WCSC-TV 5, December 23 2015.
- “North Charleston Penalties for Vice May Be Severe”, Charleston News and Courier, August 25 1973.
- “Judge Orders Club Closed”, Charleston News and Courier, December 10 1974.
- “Former Officer Testifies at Racketeering Trial”, Sumter Daily Item, May 13 1976.
- “Officials Call Strip of Taverns ‘Hell-Hole'”, Charleston News and Courier, June 3 1976.
- “North Charleston Police: Prostitution ‘Controllable'”, Charleston News and Courier, June 4 1982.
- “Prostitute’s Quarantine Challenged”, Sumter Item, April 26 1988.
- “Nationwide Raids Include Two S.C. Escort Raids”, The State, April 6 1990.
- “3 Officers Accused of Using Prostitutes”, Charleston Post and Courier, December 17 1993.
- “Ring Used Prostitution as Diversion”, Charleston Post and Courier, August 31 2005.
- “Program Aims to Help Women Break Cycle of Abuse, Crime”, Charleston Post and Courier, November 25 2006.
- “6 Women Accused of Prostitution”, Charleston Post and Courier, February 26 2009.
- “Quick Work Kept Suspect in US”, Charleston Post and Courier, April 15 2009.
- “4 Arrested in Brothel Sex Sting”, Charleston Post and Courier, July 8 2011.