Smith County, TX

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Cameras
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
Letters
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Smith County is located in east-central Texas, about midway between Dallas, Texas and Shreveport, Louisiana. The county’s population is about 233,000, nearly half of which reside in its largest city, Tyler (pop. approximately 105,000). Prostitution and sex trafficking activity has been well-documented in the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking. For example, in July 2018, a Smith County judge found a Tyler man guilty of human trafficking and prostitution charges. The grand jury indictment included charges of human trafficking accomplished through using force, fraud, or coercion to cause the complainant to engage in prostitution.

Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking and therefore has been heavily targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. For example, in October 2004 an undercover reverse sting operation was conducted by the Smith County Sheriff’s Office following an investigation that confirmed that prostituted persons had been working out of an East Texas rest stop 757 exit that led to seven arrests, including three sex buyers. Three women were charged with prostitution, and three male truck drivers were charged with solicitation of a prostitute. The operation was in response to the Sheriff’s Department having received complaints from truck drivers, saying people in prostitution were banging on their doors while they were asleep. Drivers say they’ve been approached at all hours of the day. The sting operation involved 49 officers from seven different area agencies.

In October 2018, a multi-agency law enforcement investigation led to the arrests of nine men suspected of soliciting minors for sex. The Smith County Sheriff’s Office led the two-day operation that involved officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Smith County Sheriff’s Office, Tyler and Longview police departments, FBI, and ICE. The suspects allegedly went to an undisclosed location after they solicited sex online from undercover investigators posing as minors. According to the Texas Penal Code Section, solicitation of a minor is a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The suspects were booked into the Smith County jail. The names, ages, and bond amounts of those arrested were listed in news releases.

In May of 2021, a two-day online undercover sting targeting people allegedly soliciting prostituted people in Smith County resulted in the arrest of eight men on charges of prostitution, a Class B Misdemeanor in the state of Texas punishable by up to 180 days in jail, a fine of as much as $2,000, or both. The operation was coordinated by the following state, county, and local agencies:

  • Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division special agents
  • Smith County Sheriff’s Office
  • Tyler Police Department
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Smith County Criminal District Attorney’s Office

Smith County officials reported grave concerns regarding the amount of human trafficking occurring within the county as online services are rapidly rising, despite the increase in undercover stings to raise awareness about prostitution and deter individuals from attempting to buy sexual services from trafficking victim in Smith County and the state of Texas. The Smith County’s DA Office stated that,

“Over the last several years, human traffickers have moved their criminal enterprise online, soliciting prostitution via ads on various websites and apps. These traffickers coerce vulnerable individuals into becoming trafficking victims. Ultimately, the demand for prostitution fuels the traffickers’ endeavors.”

Other Sex Buyer Arrests, Employment Loss:

Not all sex buyers are arrested during decoy operations; some occur during the course of investigating allegations against specific individuals or during brothel raids.  For example, a Smith County Precinct 2 constable was charged in November, 2020 with prostitution and “official oppression” for offering to provide a woman with supervised visitation services in exchange for sexual favors. Those offenses occurred around July 31, 2020, according to the indictments.  In September, 2021 he was found guilty in a jury trial and the 114th District Court sentenced him to six months in the Smith County Jail and a $4,000 fine for official oppression.  The Judge then issued a court order immediately removing the man as constable.

Key Partners

  • Smith County Sheriff’s Office
  • Tyler Police Department
  • Longview Police Department
  • FBI
  • ICE
  • Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Smith County Criminal District Attorney’s Office

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:

Arrest of Sex Buyer; Loss of Employment; Identity Disclosure:

Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:

State Texas
Type County
Population 232751
Location
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