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Salem is an independent city in the U.S. commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2020 census, its population was just over 25,000. It is the county seat of Roanoke County, although the two are separate jurisdictions. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the city and surrounding areas. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. For example, in May, 2020, a woman was charged with prostitution following an undercover investigation at a Salem nail salon. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking of minors. For example, in 2016, in March, 2018, a Salem man, who believed he was enticing a 15-year-old female to engage in prostitution while actually communicating online with an undercover Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to a federal sex-trafficking charge. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. In August of 2016, while posing as a 15-year-old female, a Sheriff’s Deputy responded to a Craigslist advertisement posted by the offender seeking a “personal/casual” encounter. The man gave the undercover deputy a cell phone number and the two exchanged text messages. During the course of their text message exchanges, the man told the “female minor” that he ran an escort service and that his girls made good money, and provided standard prices for the services the escorts offered and the two arranged to meet in order for the “female minor” to perform oral sex on the man. The man left his home in Salem, Virginia and drove to Franklin County, Virginia to meet the “minor female,” and was then arrested. The man admitted that he helped run an escort service from his Salem home, which involved recruiting females to engage in sex for pay. He helped arrange for encounters between prostituted and trafficked females and the customers and took a portion of the fees paid for making the arrangements. The man also admitted that at least two female victims he previously helped recruit were 17-years-old.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. A law enforcement respondent to the 2021 National Assessment Survey reported that cameras have been used in Salem specifically focused on deterring and apprehending sex buyers.
- Salem Police Department
National Assessment Survey – 2021
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- https://roanoke.com/woman-charged-with-prostitution-at-salem-salon (2010)
- https://www.justice.gov/salem-man-pleads-guilty-conspiracy-commit-sex-trafficking (2018)
- https://wset.com/police-salem-man-sentenced-to-96-months-for-arranging-teen-to-become-prostitute (2018)
- https://www.wfxrtv.com/woman-accused-of-recruiting-15-year-old-girl-for-prostitution-in-roanoke-county/ (2021)