Panama City, FL
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Panama City is located in the Florida Panhandle along U.S. Route 98, about midway between Tallahassee and Pensacola, It is the county seat of Bay County and has a population of roughly 36,000 residents. The Panama City Police Department has fielded numerous complaints about prostitution from residents and businesses for decades, and sex trafficking is well-documented in the area.
To address these problems, police have conducted street-level reverse stings and released to the media the identities of arrested sex buyers since at least 2001. For example, a local restaurant owner pleaded no contest in 2001 to a charge of “soliciting or procuring a prostitute.” After the Panama City man’s plea to the misdemeanor charge, adjudication on the case was withheld. Less than three months later, he paid a fine of $297. The man’s identity was eventually publicly released.
A four-day reverse sting in 2004 resulted in the arrest of 72 men. More recently, the city has also conducted web-based reverse stings. Identity disclosure and loss of employment are also consequences of buying sex that have occurred within the city. For example, in April 2018, a man used Facebook to make contact with someone he thought was a prostituted woman but was instead an undercover Panama City police officer. During the communications, he agreed to pay $200 for sex and described what he wanted, then agreed to meet in person. He was arrested and charged with solicitation of prostitution. The man was identified as the band director at a local school and was fired after his arrest. North Bay Haven Charter Academy officials confirmed that the sex buyer no longer worked for the school after he went to meet the undercover officer for prostitution during school hours. He had worked at the school for eight years before his arrest.
In March 2021, Panama City Police arrested 18 people over two weekends in an operation targeting people attempting to solicit for prostitution and crimes involving narcotics. Police reported that several suspects contacted an investigator who was undercover and tried to give the investigator money or drugs for sexual acts. The identities of those arrested were disclosed in news reports.
In August 2022, several local agencies and the FBI took part in a large-scale prostitution operation in the Panhandle that resulted in the arrest of at least 17 people. Panama City Police said in a news release they participated in the operation on August 4 and August 5. They added that Panama City Beach Police and the Bay County Sheriff’s Office were part of the enforcement action. Not many details were released about the operation, but Panama City Police released the names and charges of those arrested, including 7 male sex buyers. Charges included possession of drugs and paraphernalia, procuring for prostitution, traveling to meet a minor for sexual activities, use of a computer to solicit a minor, and deriving support from proceeds of prostitution.
- Panama City Police Department
- Panama City Beach Police
- Bay County Sheriff’s Office
- North Bay Haven Charter Academy
- Haven Schools District
Street-Level Reverse Stings:
- https://floridapolitics.com/owner-of-business-previously-arrested-for-soliciting-prostitute/ (2001)
- “Dozens of Accused ‘Johns’ Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” NBC/WJHG-TV 7, May 23 2004.
- “Doctor Charged in Prostitution Sting,” Panama City News Herald, July 31 2010.
- “19 Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” Panama City News Herald, April 25 2011.
- https://www.wjhg.com/18-arrested-in-panama-city-police-reverse-prostitution-operation (2021)
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- http://www.mypanhandle.com/north-bay-haven-band-director-arrested-in-prostitution-sting (2018)
- https://www.mypanhandle.com/police-fbi-take-part-in-massive-prostitution-sting (2022)
Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:
- http://www.mypanhandle.com/news/north-bay-haven-band-director-arrested-in-prostitution-sting (2018)
- https://www.mypanhandle.com/news/band-director-fired-after-prostitution-arrest (2018)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Brief: PCPD: Woman Offered Child as Prostitute,” Panama City News Herald, December 22 2011.
- “Man Indicted on Kidnapping, Retaliating against a Witness, and Transporting and Coercing an Individual for Prostitution Charges,” States News Service, August 12 2013.
- “Conspiracy to Kidnap Indictment,” NBC/WJHG-TV 7, August 13 2013.
- “Guilty Plea Expected in Panama City Beach Kidnapping,” NBC/WJHG-TV 7, October 23 2013.
- “Baltimore Man Indicted on Charges Related to the Sexual Exploitation of a Minor When Adults Promote Juvenile Prostitution, ‘That Is Human Trafficking, Period,'” States News Service, January 30 2014.
- “Beach Man Arrested for Prostitution Ring Involving Teenagers,” NBC/WJHG-TV 7, July 8 2014.
- “Teen Said Ad for Models Led to Prostitution,” Panama City News Herald, July 9 2014.
- “Human Trafficker Gets Life in Prison,” U.S. Federal News Service, October 18 2014.
- “Baltimore Man Pleads Guilty to Receipt of Child Pornography Also Admits Facilitating a 16-Year-Old Girl’s Engagement in Prostitution,” States News Service, December 23 2014.
- “Two Illinois Men Face Human Trafficking and Procuring Prostitution Charges,” NBC/WJHG-TV 7, March 16 2015.
- “Baltimore Man Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for Receipt of Child Pornography Also Admits Facilitating a 16 Year Old Girl to Engage in Prostitution,” States News Service, March 20 2015.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Video Producer Faces 22 Charges,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, April 26 2003.
- “Judge: ‘Girls Gone Wild’ Video of Teen Is Not Child Porn,” Tuscaloosa News, March 15 2004.
- “Most ‘Girls’ Charges Dead: State Says Dismissal of Key Evidence Leaves Only 8 Charges That Can Be Tried in Court,” Panama City News Herald, December 6 2006.
- “‘Girls’ Founder Takes Lawsuit to the Web,” Charleston Daily Mail, October 26 2007.
- “‘Girls Gone Wild’ Founder Resolves Florida Case, Awaits Tax Trial,” Associated Press Worldstream, March 12 2008.
- “Free Speech Battle over ‘Girls Gone Wild’ Lawsuit,” Associated Press Online, October 26 2010.
- “Girls Gone Wild Founder Cleared in Civil Case,” Associated Press Online, April 7 2011.
- “Panama City Prostitution Bust Results in Four Arrests,” NBC/WJHG-TV 7, September 4 2014.
- “Brief: Man Fined for Pimping Ex-Girlfriend on Facebook,” Panama City News Herald, September 12 2014.
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
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