Somerset County, NJ

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

Somerset County is located in the Raritan Valley in the north-central region of New Jersey, within the New York Metropolitan Area, about 33 miles from Manhattan. The county’s population is approximately 346,000. Prostitution activity has been well-documented within the county and throughout the region. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. For example, in January, 2011, Somerville police arrested a masseuse at a West Main Street day spa for trying to sell sex, according to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office. She was charged with engaging in prostitution after she allegedly propositioned an undercover detective. The undercover operation followed a month-long investigation by county and Somerville authorities that began when they received complaints about the business from several Somerville residents. In 2018, two women were charged with prostitution following separate undercover investigations by Somerset County Prosecutor Office detectives and police in Franklin Township and Green Brook. Both arrests were made following one-month undercover operations by the Prosecutor’s  detectives and police in both towns. One investigation was triggered by complaints that a brothel was being operated out of the massage parlor, and a Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office undercover detective entered the business where he was propositioned for a sex act in exchange cash. Task Force members, along with members of the Franklin Township Police Department entered the business and placed the woman under arrest. The circumstances in the Green Brook arrest were similar, with police launching an undercover investigation after receiving complaints that a brothel was operating from a massage business.

Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. Demand reduction tactics used in the town include reverse stings, other arrests of sex buyers, and the disclosure of their identities.  For example, in 2020, a dozen men were arrested and charged in an online child predator sting involving the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, and faced federal charges as part of the investigation, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. The 12 from New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania were arrested under “Operation Spotlight,” and are accused of arranging sexual meet-ups with people they thought were children living in Somerset County. The men, instead, were talking to police officers posing as children on various social media apps. The officers identified themselves or a family member as underage, but the accused still made plans to meet up for sex. One man allegedly used an internet-based application to communicate with a person he believed to be a mother offering her 14-year-old daughter for sex in exchange for money. Unbeknownst to the man, he was communicating with an undercover law enforcement officer. He allegedly traveled from Easton to a location in Somerset County to meet with the mother and the minor. Upon arriving, he provided a sum of cash to the undercover officer, who the suspect believed was the child’s mother, and was arrested by law enforcement. He was charged with interstate travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and attempted sex trafficking of a minor. The arrest was made possible by special agents with the FBI, detectives with the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, and officers with the Somerville, Bound Brook and Hillsborough police departments with the investigation leading to those charges.

In February, 2021 law enforcement officials announced the identity of Somerville man who admitted to traveling to the Philippines to pay to sexually abuse a minor.  The man pleaded guilty in federal court  on charges related to a trip in October 2018 where he paid the minor with money and gifts. The man’s identity was publicly disclosed.

Key Partners

  • Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Somerset County Sheriff’s Office
  • Somerset County Jail
  • Franklin Township Police Department
  • Somerville Police Department
  • New Brunswick Police Department
  • Bound Brook Police Department
  • Hillsborough Police Department
  • New Jersey State Police
  • Federal Bureau of Investigations

Key Sources

Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Sting

Sex Buyer Arrest and Identity Disclosure:

Background on Sex Trafficking and Prostitution in the Area:

State New Jersey
Type County
Population 345647
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