Parkersburg, WV

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

Parkersburg is a city in West Virginia of approximately 30,000 residents. It is the government seat of Wood County. It is the state’s fourth-largest city and the largest city in the Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna metropolitan area. Instances of prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented in the city and surrounding areas. This activity and its ancillary crimes have generated residential complaints to local law enforcement agencies. Among the more serious crimes associated with the area’s commercial sex market are child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation. For example, in 2020, the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation focused on apprehending individuals engaging in the online commercial sexual exploitation of children in the area. As a result of the investigation, eight men were arrested after allegedly agreeing to sexually exploit a minor under the age of sixteen in exchange for money. According to a statement from Sheriff Matt Champlin, the investigation was a response to concerns for the safety of youth in county and their access to technology,

“In this technological age every day we are seeing the youth of our county being taken advantage of by individuals more and more through electronic devices and social media. As your Sheriff this scares me, as a parent myself this absolutely terrifies me. Over the past several months, I have guided and directed an investigative team as we have performed online investigations to determine if there is a threat to our youth through online platforms which provide for prostitution or other unlawful sexual acts against our children.”

In effort to reduce instances of commercial sex in the city, various demand reduction tactics have been deployed in the city, specifically targeting individuals seeking to purchase commercial sex. For example, in 2015, the Parkersburg Police Department conducted an investigation into prostitution and other illicit activities occurring in the area. Police used online advertisements posted on websites known for commercial sex to communicate and meet with both prostituted women and sex buyers. As a result of the investigation, two male sex buyers and five prostituted women were arrested. The identities of arrested offenders were included in reports by local media outlets. In 2022, four men were arrested for soliciting a minor online as a result of an undercover operation by the West Virginia State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and the Parkersburg Police Department. According to reports, an operation was conducted a few years prior to the 2022 operation that resulted in the arrest of six men for similar offenses. Cpl. J.M. DeMeyer with the West Virginia State Police and the West Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) which helped in the investigation expressed the severity and prevalence of these types of crimes in the state,

“Our caseload is huge for the state of West Virginia in general. Part of what we do is undercover chats and operations in an effort to be more proactive than reactive. This is something that we’ve done for the state for years now.”

Local law enforcement has also apprehended sex buyers through alternative investigations or a result of residential reports to police. For example, in October 2021, reports of soliciting a prostituted woman resulted in the arrest of a 73-year-old Parkersburg man. According to a criminal complaint filed with the Wood County Magistrate Court, on two separate occasions, the offender allegedly attempted to pay / had paid a woman in exchange for sex. In June of 2021, a woman told law enforcement that sex buyer had been paying her to engage in commercial sex with him at his residence. She told officers that he had paid her $40 and gave her two Percocet pills in exchange for her engaging in commercial sex. The victim said she declined and when the two entered a residence, the offender grabbed her by the hair and threw her on the ground before striking her in the face around four times with a closed fist. On a later date, the offender was arrested after an officer across the street had witnessed the man attempting to solicit sex from a prostituted woman in the parking lot of a local business. An officer, sitting across the street, saw the offender slowly follow a female through the parking lot, trying to solicit her for prostitution, the complaint said. After following the sex buyer through town, the officer pulled him over. He had a large amount of cash in his wallet and when the officer asked if he had enough for a prostituted person, the offender said, “enough for a couple of girls.” The sex buyer again denied having talked to the woman in the parking lot and as the officer was gathering information, the offender got out of his vehicle and said “no” when the officer told him to get back inside. After he tried to get back into his car, the offender was handcuffed and placed in the cruiser. He told the officer he had a firearm in the vehicle and a handgun was found inside along with an unmarked pill bottle in the console with several different pills inside. He also had a switchblade in the back of the driver’s side door, according to the complaint. The sex buyer is being charged with domestic battery, two counts of soliciting for prostitution, possession of controlled substance, and obstructing an officer. He was released on a $2,000 surety bond. His identity was included in reports by local media outlets.

State West Virginia
Type City
Population 29403
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