Raleigh, NC

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

Raleigh, North Carolina, is a city of roughly 470,000 residents that is the state’s capitol and its largest city. It has had longstanding problems resulting from prostitution and sex trafficking, including cases involving minors and adults with cognitive disabilities.  For example, in August, 2021, a local man was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences in prison for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion and of a minor; sex trafficking by force fraud and coercion; sex trafficking of a minor; using the internet to promote a prostitution business enterprise (ITAR); and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The man had been convicted of those crimes by a jury, and he was also ordered to pay restitution in an amount of at least $418,000.  According to court records and evidence presented at trial, the man and his co-conspirator prostituted many women between November 2014 and October 2015, including minors. The victims were young, vulnerable, and often struggling to survive. After luring the victims with promises of food, shelter, and a better life, they manipulated and controlled the victim’s lives, isolating them, withholding food, and keeping all money the victims earned. The defendant beat and choked the victims, sometimes to unconsciousness, and emotionally and psychologically abused them. Among other threats, he claimed to have magical powers that allowed him to hunt down victims and kill them. He sexually assaulted victims and forced them into sexual acts against their will. And he attempted to murder a man who helped one victim escape. Before imposing the sentence, a judge described the offender as “an extraordinarily dangerous human being” and his crimes as a “form of modern-day slavery.”

In December, 2021, a Raleigh man was sentenced to 210 months in prison for manufacturing child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in state law).  The man and co-defendant were charged in a four-count superseding indictment for sex trafficking of a minor, using the internet to promote prostitution, manufacturing child pornography, and possession of a firearm by a felon. In September, 2022, a Raleigh was arrested and faced multiple charges linked to alleged sex trafficking of a child. The 21 year old woman had a criminal history of charges for sexually exploiting a minor and promoting prostitution. Prostitution-related homicides are also well-documented problems in the city.  In fact, the North Carolina Homicide Investigator’s Association was formed in 1994. It was organized in Raleigh by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and a number of NC homicide investigators in response to a series of unresolved homicides of people exploited in the commercial sex trade.

To combat such problems fueled by the local commercial sex market, the Raleigh Police Department began targeting consumer-level demand by conducting reverse stings in 1976.  The first set of operations involved one decoy and two support officers, and resulted in the arrest of 20 sex buyers over a three-week period.  One of five different female officers would rotate in serving as the decoy in these operations. Reverse stings were conducted sporadically in subsequent decades. In 2002, a police problem-solving effort was undertaken that focused on street prostitution.  A study was conducted that examined arrest records and spacial distribution, and police officers and others were surveyed about the city’s prostitution problem (Weisel, 2004).  At about the time of that study, the RPD formed an interdisciplinary team to examine the “chronic visibility” of the prostitution market in the city (Raleigh Police Department, 2006).  The studies of prostitution concluded that police and other agencies in the city should prioritize arresting and disclosing the identities of customers and addressing the service needs of providers of commercial sex (Weisel, 2004).  An initiative, “Operation Dragnet, was launched that featured those elements.  Among other outcomes, over 85% of the citizens surveyed were aware of the anti-prostitution effort, and citizen-initiated calls for service initially increased due to increased awareness, and then declined steadily by 38% compared to the pre-intervention baseline.

A North Carolina State University professor obtained a COPS grant, and helped to select a number of tactics to be implemented by Raleigh Police officers, the district attorney’s office, probation and parole officers, rehabilitation services, and a networks of others to reduce the problems associated with prostitution.

“We intend to publicize on our police department Web page the arrest information of those who solicit the prostitutes. We also intend to display their photos, names, and arrest information on the public access government station. We feel that that won’t stop all of the men, but it will stop some. Reduce demand and there’ll be less business for the prostitutes.”   Professor Deborah L. Weisel, 2003

Public access television and the web have been used to target demand by disclosing the identities of sex buyers.  Reverse stings and the releasing the identities of the men arrested are still conducted in the city periodically.  And not all arrests of sex buyers have resulted from proactive reverse stings using decoys to target buyers.  Instead, men in Raleigh have been arrested in the course of others police operations.  For example, between 2004 and 2006, several brothel raids were conducted in Raleigh, and men discovered in the brothels at those times were arrested.

Employment loss is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred in the city.  For example, in December 2022, a state trooper with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol was arrested by officers with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and faced misdemeanor prostitution charges and one felony count of a crime against nature. The trooper was found with a prostituted person. The North Carolina State Highway Patrol, based in Raleigh, confirmed that the man resigned the same day as his arrest.  He had been a trooper with the agency since August 2019. The man’s identity was publicly disclosed.

Key Partners

  • Raleigh Police Department
  • Wake County DA’s Office
  • Wake County Human Services
  • NC Community Corrections
  • North Caroline Alcohol Law Enforcement

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey (2012)

Brothel Raids with Sex Buyers Arrested:

Reverse Stings:

Identity Disclosure and “Prostitution Dragnet” (2003 – 2007):

Employment Loss, Identity Disclosure:

Cameras, Neighborhood Action, and “Dear John” Letters:

Local Sex Trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation, Related CSAM:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State North Carolina
Type City
Population 469124
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