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Plains Township is a community in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, with a population of approximately 9,800 at the 2020 census. The region has well-documented history of sex trafficking and prostitution activity. The county contained towns that were stops on a domestic sex trafficking circuit in the 1970s and 1980s. The “pimp circuit,” as it was then called, ran along highway corridors in central Pennsylvania (e.g., Allentown, Reading, Harrisburg, Scranton, Wilkes Barre) and into upstate New York (e.g., Schenectady, Albany, Buffalo). Like in most areas, there is also a long history of local street prostitution, commercial sex advertised online, and sex trafficking occurring within Luzerne County.
Within the community of Plains Township, a wide range of serious crimes occurring within the sex trade have also been documented, including child sex trafficking, drugs, kidnapping, rape, and sex trafficking-related child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in state laws). For example, in July, 2015, five people were arrested for offenses occurring in area motels. Investigators had encountered advertisements along with attached pictures for apparent sex acts and State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations and federal authorities were led to motels in the area arresting five people on prostitution related offenses. One person person arrived at the Plains Township motel to meet an undercover decoy posing as a sex buyer, and after her arrest claimed she was not a prostitute and planned on stealing the money by making an excuse to leave the room. One of the defendants was charged by federal authorities with conspiring with others to commit sex trafficking of a teen girl. They had allegedly knowingly recruited, enticed and transported a teen girl to various motels in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties to be sexually abused by customers fro over seven months. Explicit pictures of the girl were posted with an advertisement for escort services on backpage.com to solicit customers, thus constituting CSAM. The defendant and others allegedly provided heroin, cocaine, other illegal drugs and condoms to the teen girl to use when she met with customers. The investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations and state police. In September, 2021, police in Luzerne County found that a young girl was kidnapped and sexually assaulted in a local case of sex trafficking. Officers rescued the 14-year-old after she was held captive for three days. The victim had been walking in Luzerne Borough when she was approached by a man in his vehicle who offered her a ride. She was hesitant, and he forced her into the car and took her to an apartment of another man, where she was forced to take drugs and drink alcohol and was sexually assaulted by both men say over the course of the next three days at multiple locations. She was taken to to motel in Plains Township where the assaults continued. The victim was able to call 911 and she was rescued by Plains Township Police.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and demand reduction tactics have been used in the city. In September, 2022, state police announced seven men were arrested during an undercover prostitution sting in Plains Township designed to apprehend commercial sex buyers. The men were arrested after they met an undercover trooper for purpose of paying for sexual acts, and all seven men were charged with “patronizing prostitutes.” The initial press release said that the identities of the arrested sex buyers would be publicly disclosed after formal charges were filed.
- Plains Township Police Department
- https://www.abc27.com/psp-seven-arrested-in-undercover-prostitution-sting/ (2022)
- https://www.pahomepage.com/psp-seven-arrested-after-undercover-prostitution-sting/ (2022)
- https://www.wkbn.com/psp-seven-arrested-in-undercover-prostitution-sting/ (2022)
- https://www.wearecentralpa.com/psp-seven-arrested-in-undercover-prostitution-sting/ (2022)
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- https://www.timesleader.com/nine-arrested-in-w-b-prostitution-sting-city-police-send-undercover-officersin (2005)
- “The Scandal of Human Trafficking Rocked Back Mountain in 1926”, The Citizen’s Voice, June 10 2009.
- “W-B Man Pleads Guilty to Sex Trafficking”, Wilkes Barre Citizens’ Voice, June 27 2014.
- “Federal Grand Jury Indicts Two Scranton Men on Child Sex Trafficking Charges,” Scranton Times-Tribune, May 12 2015.
- https://www.justice.gov/luzerne-county-woman-sentenced-prison-transporting-person-interstate-commerce-engage (2014)
- https://www.timesleader.com/five-charged-prostitution-Plains Township area-motels (2015)
- https://www.timesleader.com/wilkes-barre-police-arrest-three-women-in-prostitution-sweep (2015)
- https://www.citizensvoice.com/three-women-nabbed-in-prostitution-sting-in-wilkes-barre-1.1901269 (2015)
- https://wnep.com/workers-at-spa-in-luzerne-county-busted-for-prostitution/ (2016)
- http://www.wfmz.com/prostitution-sting-nets-two-luzerne-county-women-in-stroudsburg/ (2016)
- https://www.pennlive.com/pa_spa_was_really_a_brothel_co.html (2017)
- https://cseinstitute.org/Report on Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Pennsylvania (2018)
- https://www.pahomepage.com/one-man-arrested-one-sought-kidnapping-sexual-assault-luzerne-county/ (2021)