Pitt County, NC
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Pitt County is a county of approximately 180,000 residents in eastern North Carolina. Greenville is the county seat and largest city. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented in the county, and has been linked to child sex trafficking and online exploitation. To combat the demand for commercial sex activity, reverse stings have been conducted by local law enforcement.
In February 2016, the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) arrested the alleged ring-leader of a prostitution network covering a large portion of eastern North Carolina. After several community complaints, detectives with the Street Crimes Unit discovered the man had been facilitating and promoting more than 30 different females over the internet for prostitution. Deputies charged the Greenville man with 22 sex related offenses.
The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) has staged at least two reverse stings at undisclosed locations within the county. In July 2016, PCSO deputies announced the completion of “Operation Casual Encounter,” a multi-stage, multi-month web sting targeting individuals attempting to solicit commercial sex online. Both sex buyers and sellers were targeted, as were individuals attempting to solicit (non-commercial) sex from minors. Thirty-six individuals were arrested after replying to decoy online advertisements and arranging to meet undercover officers at an undisclosed location. Among the arrestees were 16 men who reportedly arranged to “meet with prostitutes.” Following the arrests, the PCSO convened a press conference about the sting and displayed a poster with the names, mugshots, and other identifying information of all of the individuals arrested. Select media outlets publicized the identities of the individuals who had attempted to solicit sex from minors, but not those charged with prostitution-related offenses.
In April 2019, sixteen men were caught in a prostitution sting by PCSO deputies. Warrants in some of the cases show that an undercover detective and another deputy were solicited. Detectives from the Street Crimes Unit, along with the Narcotics Unit conducted the investigation. All sixteen men were arrested on charges of solicitation of prostitution.
In December 2020, local law enforcement arrested a 21-year-old man following the death of a 16-year-old girl at a Greenville hotel. The man was charged with human trafficking, sexual servitude of a child, promoting prostitution, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and statutory rape of a child.
That same year, the PCSO hired their first and only full-time human trafficking investigator, who would work solely on combatting the issue of human trafficking in Pitt County.
In April 2022, a 51-year-old man was arrested in Pitt County and charged with second-degree forcible rape, sexual activity by a substitute parent or custodian, incest, and soliciting prostitution from a minor. His bond was set at $14 million.
In May 2022, the PCSO reported that their detectives, along with police from the Winterville Police Department, had joined forces to investigate suspected child abuse involving a 66-year-old pastor. The man was charged with four counts of second-degree forcible sex, three counts of sexual battery, two counts of statutory sex offense with a child under the age of 15, and indecent liberties with a minor.
- Pitt County Sheriff’s Office
- Pitt County District Attorney’s Office
- North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking
- Greenville Police Department
- Winterville Police Department
Web-Based Reverse Stings with Identity Disclosure:
- “36 Arrests Made in Pitt County Undercover Investigation,” CBS/WNCT-TV 9, July 13 2016.
- “Sex Sting Results in 36 Results,” Greenville Daily Reflector, July 13 2016.
- “SHERIFF: 36 Charged in Child Sex Solicitation Investigation,” NBC/WITN-TV 7, July 13 2016.
- https://www.witn.com/content/news/16-men-caught-in-Pitt-County-prostitution-sting (2019)
- http://www.reflector.com/News/2019/04/22/16-arrested-in-prostitution-sting.html (2019)
Background on Prostitution and Trafficking in the Area:
- “Pitt Sheriff Applies for Trafficking Investigator,” Greenville Daily Reflector, August 12 2008.
- “Grant Funds Sheriff’s Effort to Gauge Human Trafficking,” Greenville Daily Reflector, March 19 2009.
- “Officials Target Human Trafficking,” Greenville Daily Reflector, September 21 2010.
- “Alleged Prostitution Network Leader Arrested,” Wilson Daily Times, February 4 2016.
- “Prostitution Ring Leader Arrested in Pitt County,” CBS/WNCT-TV 9, February 4 2016.
- https://www.wnct.com/news/pitt-county-sheriffs-dept-adds-human-trafficking-investigator/ (2020)
- https://wlos.com/news/local/investigation-into-teens-possible-overdose-results-in-human-trafficking-charges (2020)
- https://www.witn.com/2020/07/16/local-sheriffs-office-assigns-first-ever-human-trafficking-investigator/ (2020)
Background on Child Exploitation in the Area:
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