Snohomish County, WA

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Shaming
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Letters
Cameras
Web stings
License suspension

Snohomish County is located in the Puget Sound region of Washington, due North of Seattle, and has a population of approximately 800,000.  Key cities within the county include Everett and Lynnwood.  Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified by law enforcement as problems in the county, and residents have complained to police about prostitution in certain neighborhoods.  The bodies of several women discovered in the county in the early 1990s are suspected of being the result of a serial killer who targeted prostituted women. Prostitution activity, at times involving minors, has been reported locally for more than 20 years. A more recent example from October, 2018: FBI Seattle Division Child Exploitation Task Force (CETF), along with additional local partners, conducted an operation in the Everett area to recover juvenile victims of sex trafficking and identify subjects suspected of commercially exploiting children and/or adults, and other related crimes. The CETF identified 11 adult females and two juvenile females being exploited through prostitution. At least one case of targeted sexual assault on a prostituted woman has also been documented.  One of the prostitution related issues arising in the county around 2011-2013 was the emergence of what became known as “bikini baristas” which are drive-through coffee and espresso stands distinguished by the barista’s attire.  While legal if the businesses simply use the women’s appearance to draw customers, complaints soon emerged that the coffee stands became the foundation for prostitution, where the contacts with customers were used to set up appointments for prostitution.  Undercover investigations and surveillance soon confirmed the allegations that prostitution and sex trafficking were being facilitated by these businesses.

The Everett Police Department and the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office have worked together to execute reverse sting operations in the community since at least 1988.  Area police were also the first to conduct web-based reverse sting operations, starting in 1995.  Everett uses geographic probation for those arrested on prostitution charges.  This means that prostitution “customers” can be ordered to stay away from well-known marketplaces for drugs and prostitution, and if found there, can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.  Everett began using this tactic in 1993. For about 10 years (1999 to 2008), the Snohomish Department of Public Health operated a john school that was used for men arrested for soliciting in Everett and other areas within the county, but the program was discontinued. As of 2014, police report that there is no john school or vehicle seizure options being used for sex buyers.  In Lynnwood, police began conducting reverse stings in 1995, and web-based reverse stings in 2005. The names of those arrested are released to the public. The city is also able to seize the autos of those arrested for solicitation of prostitution. In addition, police can order “stay out of areas of prostitution” orders. In a 2005 reverse sting, police arrested 11 men during a three-hour prostitution sting along Highway 99 in Lynnwood.

On June 25, 2013, law enforcement from multiple jurisdictions served search warrants on eight locations; Everett (1), Edmonds (1), Kent (1), and unincorporated Snohomish County (5) and made eight arrests.  The arrests came after the Everett Police Department (EPD), in conjunction with the Kent Police Department (KPD), the Federal Bureau of Investigation and several other law enforcement entities concluded an extensive criminal investigation and developed evidence that several latte stands were being used to promote prostitution and lewd conduct. Seven of the locations were latte stands and one was a residence. The owner of the seven stands was arrested for conspiracy to promote prostitution (RCW 9A.88.080) and permitting prostitution (RCW 9A.88.090) and was booked into the Snohomish County Jail.  Numerous female baristas working at the seven latte stands were contacted and detained.  Also arrested was a 30 year veteran Sergeant with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO), who was booked into the Marysville Jail for conspiracy to promote prostitution (RCW 9A.88.080) and official misconduct (RCW 9A.80.010). The initial investigation began in October of 2012 when the KPD investigated complaints of lewd conduct at a latte stand, and several baristas were identified and arrested for prostitution and lewd conduct. At that time, the seven latte stands were linked to one person. During the investigation, a barista told detectives that a SCSO sergeant had engaged in inappropriate behavior while on the job and was providing information about ongoing undercover investigations targeting the latte stands. The KPD notified the SCSO of the allegations and they immediately requested the EPD conduct a criminal investigation. Everett detectives examined information, conducted undercover surveillance and interviewed baristas. The EPD investigation led to the 2013 arrests and search warrants at the seven latte stands.

In response to numerous concerns about prostitution and the crimes that invariably occur around sexual commerce, police have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex.  The Snohomish Sheriff’s Office has conducted reverse stings since 1986 and have conducted at least one street-level reverse sting, which resulted in five arrests.  Most of the arrests of sex buyers in the county occur in the city of Everett, the county’s population center, but have been conducted in other cities including Lynnwood. These are described separately in the Demand Forum web pages for those cities.

In 1990, a reverse sting sting targeted sex buyers, and resulted in the arrest of 13 men in a prostitution crackdown that closed down two Aurora Avenue massage parlors.  The men, age 21 to 69, were arrested between 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. after police set up an operation at a motel in southwest Snohomish County, according to a spokesman for the Snohomish County sheriff’s office who would not give an exact location where the arrests occurred.  The arrests were made after the men offered or agreed to engage in sex acts with an undercover female deputy. All the men were booked into the county jail.

John School

The Snohomish County public health department operated a john school from 2000 to 2005, and roughly 100 men participated in the program.  The men could be sent to the program from police operations anywhere in the county, including Lynnwood and Everett.  The john school was structured as a condition of a criminal sentence, and participation would not result in the dismissal of charges.  Participants were required to pay a $100 fee for the class, plus $500 fine for the prostitution charge, and $6 per day for and electronic monitoring bracelet for men with SOAP orders.  The class occurred in one day over seven hours, and the curriculum covered:

  • health risks
  • impact on survivors (testimony of formely prostituted or trafficked women)
  • impact on community (citizen panel)
  • legal  risks
  • drug & alcohol abuse and links to prostitution

Key Partners

  • Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department
  • Snohomish County Health District
  • Everett City Council
  • Everett Police Department
  • Community groups

Key Sources

National Assessment survey and interviews

Snohomish County Criminal Code:

Reverse Stings:

  • http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19901103&slug=1102033 (1990)
  • https://www.heraldnet.com/news/11-men-nabbed-in-lynnwood-prostitution-sting/ (2005)
  • https://www.heraldnet.com/news/seattle-man-charged-following-lynnwood-prostitution-sting/ (2005)

Neighborhood Action:

Cameras:

  • “Smile! The Police Are Watching You; Everett Cameras Combat Crime,” Seattle Times, July 24 1997.
  • “Focus on Everett Crime Fight Is on Surveillance Cameras,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 9 1998.
  • “Crime-Fighting Cameras?” Seattle Times, July 14 1998.
  • “Police Cameras to Keep Watch, Security vs. Privacy an Issue in Everett,” Seattle Times, February 2 2000.

John School (discontinued):

Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Information on efforts to combat human trafficking in the area:

State Washington
Type County
Population 801603
Location
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