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Queens is the easternmost of the five boroughs of New York City, the largest in area and the second-largest in population, with approximately 2.3 million residents. For decades, prostitution and sex trafficking have been prevalent in the borough, in addition to other kinds of violence – including homicide – committed against trafficked persons, sexually exploited adults, sex buyers, and pimps. For example, in August, 2022, one woman and one man were indicted on multiple charges and arraigned in Queens Supreme Court for allegedly terrorizing a sex buyer inside a southeast Queens hotel. The 22-count indictment charged them with kidnapping, assault, robbery, and grand larceny and other crimes. A 59-year-old man answered a prostitution advertisement and was instructed to meet at a southeast Queens hotel. Once inside the room, the victim paid to have sex and began to undress. As the victim began to disrobe, the woman allegedly threw bleach in the victim’s face, opened the door to let the male defendant into the room and he covered the victim’s head with a blanket, and began punching him and demanding his money. The defendants took the sex buyer’s car keys, phone, and wallet and when the victim refused to unlock his phone, was burned him with a curling iron until he complied. The man was restrained the victim against his will for several hours while they continued to assault him, including threatened to kill the victim, and attempted to transfer his money electronically, then made multiple trips to an ATM to take money from the victim’s bank account using his ATM card. Throughout the event, the defendants repeatedly threatened to kill the man’s family if he reported the crime to the police. Local sex trafficking cases have also involved child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in state laws). For example, in May, 2013, thirteen members of an alleged international sex trafficking ring were taken into custody to face charges for sex trafficking, resulting from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). A criminal complaint charged the defendants with sex trafficking; interstate transportation for prostitution; use of interstate facilities to promote a prostitution enterprise; obstruction of justice; possession of “child pornography;” and illegal reentry after deportation. The group allegedly exploited dozens of women, some of whom were trafficked from Mexico to New York and forced to engage in prostitution. HSI had executed search warrants on six locations, including four brothels in Yonkers, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, and Queens.
Among their efforts to address prostitution, sex trafficking, and their related crimes, police have included the use of tactics designed to address the consumer-level demand that drives the local prostitution and trafficking markets. For example, the precinct made 316 prostitution-related arrests in 2010, roughly 70 percent of which were arrests of men for patronizing prostituted persons. In June 2014, media outlets reported that NYPD officers occasionally confiscated the cars of arrested sex buyers in Queens on the basis of civil forfeiture, a legal doctrine that allows police to confiscate property before a suspected offender is convicted. In March 2017, eight men were arrested on the corner of 80th Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, caught in an NYPD prostitution sting operation. The men offered money in exchange for sex to an undercover officer. The men, who ranged in age from 22 to 44 years old, offered between $30 and $500 for various sex acts. Four of the men arrested were charged with patronizing a prostitute in the third degree, according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office. The other four individuals pleaded guilty to a violation. The identities of the arrested men were disclosed in news reports.
Identity disclosure of arrested sex buyers has occurred in Queens. For example, in September 2018, a jazz band director at one of the city’s top arts high schools was arrested as an alleged sex buyer in a Harlem prostitution sting. The man had taught jazz at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens, since February 2016, and was a respected trumpet player. He was arrested at East 127th Street and Third Ave. He was charged with patronizing a prostitute for allegedly soliciting oral sex from an undercover police officer. Students were told only that their teacher was out on “professional development.” He was reassigned away from the classroom pending the outcome of this “criminal matter” according to a Department of Education spokesman.
A sex trafficking charge was added to the New York State penal code in 2007 and it redefined how law enforcement agencies approach organized prostitution. Under the old charges, pimps typically faced up to 15 years in prison for promoting prostitution with an adult. The newer sex trafficking charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years. Also under the new law, the sex buyers who pay adults for prostitution face up to one year in jail, up from 90 days. As of May 2012, statewide, there had been 150 arrests on the new sex trafficking charge since the law took effect on November 1, 2007, according to the State Division of Criminal Justice Services; all but 13 were in New York City. Seventy of the 150 cases remained open as of 2012. Of the 80 that had been completed, there had been 13 convictions on the sex trafficking charge; other outcomes include 33 convictions on charges other than sex trafficking, and the dismissal of charges against 21 defendants.
In February 2021, the New York Governor signed a bill repealing the 1976 law prohibiting loitering for the purpose of prostitution. In March 2021, the Queens District Attorney’s Office moved to dismiss nearly 700 cases against people charged with loitering for the purpose of prostitution.
- New York City Police Department
- Human Trafficking Clinic
- Division of Criminal Justice Services
Street-Level Reverse Stings:
- “$5 Wins Ticket to the Slammer”, Newsday, March 26 1993.
- “N. Flushing Street Sweep Nabs ‘Johns'”, Newsday, June 5 1996.
- “Asst. DA Arrested in Sex Sting”, New York Daily News, December 30 2001.
- “Don’t Even Ask About Extra Credit”, New York Times, February 13 2005.
- “Police Arrested Nearly 200 People in a 4-Day Citywide Prostitution Sting”, New York Post, January 18 2012.
- “Operation Losing Proposition: Prostitution-Related Arrests Citywide”, Brooklyn News Corp, January 29 2014.
- “6 Arrested on Staten Island in Citywide Anti-Prostitution Sting”, Staten Island Advance, January 30 2014.
- “Police Stings Target Johns in Crack Down on Sex Work in Queens”, New York Daily News, June 5 2014.
- “Undercover Prostitution Sting Nabs 10 in 108 Pct.,” Queens Chronicle, March 20 2015.
- https://www.timesledger.com/stories/ (2017)
- https://www.nydailynews.com/ny-metro-teacher-busted-undercover-prostitution-sting (2018)
- https://pix11.com/off-duty-city-employee-accused-of-offering-money-to-perform-oral-sex (2018)
- https://patch.com/teacher-buster-harlem-prostitution-sting-police-say (2018)
- https://www.harlemworldmagazine.com/teacher-stung-in-harlem-prostitution-sting (2018)
- https://nypost.com/students-stunned-their-jazz-band-director-tried-to-hire-prostitute (2018)
- “Corona Citizens Form Squads to Combat Influx of Prostitutes”, New York Times, July 3 1964.
- “Fight on Prostitution Pressed in Section of Jamaica”, New York Times, August 15 1971.
- “Flushing Goes on Patrol to Chase Off Prostitutes”, New York Times, November 22 1992.
Local Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation, Related CSAM:
- “Man Charged with Forcing Tampa Girls into Prostitution”, St. Petersburg Times, April 26 1982.
- “QUEENS: Man Charged with Promoting Under-Age Prostitution”, New York Times, February 10 2006.
- “Staten Island Detective Hit with Teen Prostitution Charges”, Staten Island Advance, January 30 2008.
- “2 Accused of Keeping Girl, 13, as Prostitute”, New York Times, January 31 2008.
- “Staten Island Detective in Teen Prostitution Case Says He’s No Pimp”, Staten Island Advance, February 14 2008.
- “Men Admit to Forcing 14-Year-Old into Prostitution”, Queens Times Ledger, October 11 2012.
- “AG Charges Baysider in Prostitute Biz Bust”, Queens Times Ledger, December 1 2012.
- “Sex Trafficking Moved to Queens on 7 Line”, Queens Times Ledger, December 13 2012.
- https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2012/05/pimps-and-customers-targeted-for-prostitution (2012)
- “Queens Couple Gets Prison for Forcing Girls into Prostitution”, CBS/WCBS-TV 2, June 12 2013.
- “Queens Men Charged with Forcing Girls into Prostitution”, New York Daily News, December 10 2013.
- https://www.cbsnews.com/newyork/news/queens-couple-gets-prison-forcing-girls-into-prostitution (2013)
- https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/hsi-special-agents-arrest-13-connection-alleged-international-sex-trafficking-and (2013)
- “14-Year-Old Freed after Being Forced in Prostitution for 3 Months in Queens”, Gothamist, February 11 2014.
- “Three Queens Men Allegedly Kidnapped 14-Year-Old Girl, Raped Her, Forced Her into Prostitution,” New York Daily News, December 15 2014.
- “2 Brooklyn Men Charged with Sex Trafficking: D.A.,” NBC/WNBC-TV 4, June 6 2015.
- “Forest Hills Man Convicted of Pimping 13- and 16-Year-Old Girls; Separate Cases See Brothers Cop Guilty Pleas in Sex Trafficking Saga,” Howard Beach Forum Newsgroup, November 24 2015.
- “Forest Hills Man Jailed for Pimping Teenagers,” Queens Chronicle, January 28 2016.
- “Brothers Sentenced in Scary Sex Trafficking, Prostitution Case; Victim Was Held Captive in Woodside for Nearly a Week,” Queens Chronicle, February 1 2016.
- “Queens Man Accused of Kidnapping 19-Year-Old, Forcing Her into Prostitution,” CBS/WCBS-TV 2, February 11 2016.
- “Queens Man Sentenced for Forcing 14-Year-Old Girl into Prostitution for Months,” New York Daily News, March 21 2016.
- https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-queens-man-arrest-prostitution-brewster (2021)
- https://www.qchron.com/editions/queenswide/feds-prostitution-rings-broken-up (2021)
- https://www.qchron.com/editions/central/106th-officers-caught-in-prostitution-sting (2021)
- https://queensda.org/queens-man-and-woman-indicted-for-sex-trafficking-homeless-woman (2022)
- https://queensda.org/two-queens-men-indicted-for-sex-trafficking-teenage-girls (2022)
- https://www.justice.gov/usao-edny/nine-members-and-associates-nationwide-sex-trafficking-and-prostitution-enterprise (2022)
- https://qns.com/two-men-plead-gulty-to-sex-trafficking-underage-girls-at-a-long-island-city-hotel-da/ (2022)
Background on Local Prostitution, Related Crime:
- “City’s Prostitutes Invade Residential Communities”, New York Times, August 15 1981.
- “A Window on Immigrant Crime; In Jackson Heights, Drugs, Dirty Money and Prostitution”, New York Times, June 17 1993.
- “28 Accused of Prostitution”, New York Times, December 17 1993.
- “On Queens Streets, The Oldest Profession”, Queens Tribune, 1999.
- “Cops Target Hookers, Launch New Crackdown on Sex Traffic”, New York Daily News, February 10 2000.
- “Officials Say Sex Trade Lures Younger Girls”, New York Times, December 7 2002.
- “Hookers’ New Hot Spots: Young Girls Lured by ‘Oldest Profession'”, New York Daily News, October 30 2005.
- “Cuomo Says Queens Ring Used Craigslist to Promote Prostitution”, New York Times, May 20 2009.
- “Inside the New Times Square: A Look at Prostitution on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens”, NYPR/WNYC-FM 93.9, August 15 2011.
- https://www.nytimes.com/nyregion/sex-workers-massage-parlor (2018)
- https://nypost.com/inside-queens-hidden-sex-district (2019)
- https://nypost.com/queens-hookers-back-on-street-just-days-after-police-raid (2019)
- https://pix11.com/pandemic-prostitution-increasingly-profitable-especially-in-queens (2021)
- https://patch.com/prostitution-report-prompts-closure-forest-hills-spa-nypd (2021)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Murdered Prostitute Identified”, Schenectady Daily Gazette, December 15 1995.
- “Fake Cop Appears in Brooklyn for ‘Forcing Hookers to Perform Sex Acts,'” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 8 2012.
- “Video Released of Suspect in Queens Throat Slashing,” ABC/WABC-TV 7, October 8 2014.
- https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/11/nyregion/sex-workers-massage-parlor (2018)
- https://nypost.com/nyc-prostitute-sentenced-to-30-years-in-od-deaths-of-four-men/ (2022)
- https://qns.com/indictments-for-kidnapping-assaulting-man-queens/ (2022)
- https://patch.com/couple-indicted-third-time-queens-after-alleged-kidnapping-da (2022)
- https://qns.com/long-island-predator-indicted-sex-trafficking-forcing-two-victims-prostitution-violence-tattoos-to-intimidate (2023)
- https://www.shorenewsnetwork.com/man-charged-with-sex-trafficking-robbery-and-other-crimes-in-queens/ (2023)
Declining to Prosecute Prostitution, De Facto Partial Decriminalization: