Pawtucket is a Rhode Island city of about 75,000 residents. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been documented problems in the community for decades. For example, in 1994 a woman was arrested for selling her daughter for sex for $10 per night. Brothels throughout Rhode Island advertised sex online, primarily with prostituted or trafficked Asian women.
In 2013, Pawtucket police investigated a “madam” leading a prostitution ring that advertised on backpage.com. The woman was arrested after a 14-year-old girl told detectives that the posted erotic photos were of her, and she had been sold for sex 40 to 50 times. Detectives said that a 17-year-old girl was also in those photos and postings for the escort service, according to an affidavit accompanying a search warrant in District Court. The trafficker knew the runaway girl was 14, “but claims she only knew her age for about two weeks,” the affidavit said. The woman was charged with sex trafficking of a minor and pandering for prostitution, both felonies, as well as a misdemeanor charge of contributing to delinquency of a minor. The 14-year-old girl had been reported missing on August 22 after she slipped out of a bedroom window at a group home in Pawtucket.
Residents and businesses often complain to police about a range of problems arising from prostitution, and these complaints play a role in police activity.
From the 1980 to 2009, enforcement of prostitution laws in all Rhode Island communities was unusually complicated due to a loophole in the state law that was interpreted and operationalized by police and the courts as meaning the solicitation of sex was illegal, but the actual exchange of sex for money was not. In practice, overt street-level prostitution was enforced through stings and reverse stings, but most indoor prostitution was not. During this period, indoor prostitution was widespread and overt, and brothels thinly disguised as massage parlors – often featuring their Asian staff – advertised aggressively online and in print. The loophole was closed in 2009, and enforcement became more straightforward.
The city addresses demand through reverse stings and publicizing the identities of arrested sex buyers, beginning with a street-level operation in 1987; more recently, four men were arrested for soliciting an undercover female officer in an October 2014 reversal. In a press release following their arrest, a PPD representative noted:
“The message is clear: If men attempt to proposition women for sexual activity in the city of Pawtucket, they risk arrest and prosecution to the fullest extent allowed by law… The Pawtucket Police Department will not tolerate this type of illegal activity to take place. We are committed to eliminating this behavior which destroys the community and subjects neighborhood residents to harm.”
In November 2018, the Pawtucket and Central Falls police departments arrested sex sex buyers in a joint prostitution sting in the area of Broad Street, in response to numerous complaints from local business owners, residents, motorists and pedestrians. The identities of the arrested men were included in press releases. An operation conducted across three massage parlors in Pawtucket in December, 2019, resulted in 19 total arrests, including two men charged for purchasing sex.
Additionally, arrested johns may be required to perform community service. Neighborhood groups attempting to curtail prostitution and sex trafficking have organized efforts, including public education, that include a focus on demand.
- Pawtucket Police Department
Street-Level Reverse Stings and Shaming:
- “10 Arraigned on Prostitution Charges; Department’s ‘New Direction’ of Targeting Customers ‘Working Well'”, Providence Journal, November 20 1987.
- “Pawtucket Nabs 20 Men in Sweep for Prostitution”, Providence Journal, August 28 1988.
- “Police Arrest 24 on Prostitution Charges”, Providence Journal, May 7 1991.
- “Police Charge 13 Men with Soliciting for Sex”, Providence Journal, May 15 1991.
- “Deputy Sheriff Arrested on Charge of Soliciting”, Providence Journal, October 7 1995.
- “Police Use 3 Decoy Prostitutes to Arrest 36 ‘Johns'”, Providence Journal, August 13 1996.
- “Six Men Arrested During Sting Charged with Soliciting Officer”, Providence Journal, October 28 1996.
- “16 Arrested in Sting Aimed at Prostitution; Eight Men and Eight Women Are Charged in an Operation Staged by Pawtucket and Central Falls Police”, Providence Journal, September 11 1998.
- “Prostitution Sting by Pawtucket Police Leads to Arrest of 6 Women and 19 Men”, Providence Journal, February 14 1999.
- “26 Arrested on Charges Relating to Prostitution”, Providence Journal, June 15 1999.
- “15 Arrested on Charges Related to Prostitution”, Providence Journal, November 8 1999.
- “Police Sting Nets 32 Suspects on Sex Charges”, Providence Journal, May 14 2002.
- “Barton St. Sweep Nets 24 Arrests”, Providence Journal, March 31 2003.
- “Pawtucket Police Arrest Six on Prostitution Charges”, Valley Breeze, October 19 2012.
- “12 Men Arrested in Pawtucket Prostitution Sting”, ABC/WLNE-TV 6, June 2 2014.
- “Pawtucket Prostitution Sting Nets 12 Men”, Providence Journal, June 2 2014.
- “Four Men Accused of Offering Payments for Sex”, Lincoln Valley Breeze, October 10 2014.
- https://turnto10.com/news/local/police-12-arrested-in-prostitution-sting (2018)
- https://turnto10.com/news/local/police-12-arrested-in-prostitution-sting (November 2018)
- http://www.providencejournal.com/prostitution-sweep-in-pawtucket-central-falls-nets-6-women-6-men (2018)
- https://www.wpri.com/news/police-arrest-12-in-broad-street-prostitution-sting (2018)
- http://www.abc6.com/story/police-arrest-12-in-prostitution-sting (2018)
- https://www.abc6.com/story/41413916/19-people-arrested-following-a-prostitution-investigation-in-pawtucket (2019)
- “Council Seeks Help in Ousting Prostitutes”, Providence Journal, August 6 1987.
- “Pawtucket Police to Videotape Prostitutes, Johns”, Providence Journal, December 9 1992.
- “Police to Put Johns, Prostitutes on TV”, Providence Journal, December 26 1992.
- “Residents Fed Up with ‘Combat Zone’: Prostitution, Vagrancy Plague West Side Areas”, Providence Journal, September 30 1987.
- “Barton Street Group Says Police Ignore Crime Reports”, Providence Journal, March 24 1988.
- “Residents Appeal for Crackdown on Prostitution, Drugs”, Providence Journal, August 23 1990.
- “Prostitution Crackdown Pays Off: Over 100 Arrests Since January in Barton St. Area”, Providence Journal, December 18 1991.
- “Crime Infests Barton St., Residents Tell Officials”, Providence Journal, March 12 2003.
- “Police Step Up Efforts to Curtail Barton Street Crime”, Providence Journal, April 8 2003.
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Woman Is Charged with Selling Daughter- for $10 a Night”, Providence Journal, June 9 1994.
- “Pawtucket Police: Providence Woman Was ‘Madam’ for Underage Girl”, Providence Journal, November 13 2013.
- “Providence Woman Accused of Sex Trafficking in Case of Runaway Girl, 14”, Providence Journal, November 13 2013.
- “Texts Reveal Details in Teen Prostitution Probe”, NBC/WWLP-TV 22, November 13 2013.
- “Woman in Teen Prostitution Case to Face Judge”, CBS/WPRI-TV 12, February 4 2014.
- “A Window on Child Sex Trafficking in Rhode Island”, Providence Journal, May 17 2014.
- “Providence Man Held in Sex Trafficking Case”, CBS/WPRI-TV 12, August 27 2014.
- “Rhode Island Man Charged with Sex Trafficking of Arlington Teen”, Arlington Advocate, August 29 2014.
- “Providence Man Pleads Guilty to Sex-Trafficking Teen and Woman in Pawtucket,” Providence Journal, May 27 2015.
- “Central Falls Man to Serve 13 Years in Prison for Sex Trafficking Teen, 22-Year-Old,” Providence Journal, October 20 2015.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Police Cleanup Empties Barton St.”, Providence Journal, September 26 1991.
- “Pawtucket Takes New Approach to Curbing Prostitution”, Providence Journal, July 7 2006.