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Sparks is a city in Washoe County, Nevada, located just east of Reno, that has approximately 10,000 residents. Prostitution in the state of Nevada is legal within very narrow parameters. It can occur legally in counties with populations under 700,000 residents, if the counties vote to allow legal, regulated brothels to operate within their boundaries. Prostitution is illegal in all Nevada counties with populations over 700,000 residents. In the counties holding the state’s larger cities – such as Carson City, Reno, and Las Vegas – prostitution is prohibited. Legal prostitution occurring within counties with less than 700,000 residents is strictly limited to licensed and regulated brothels, and the people used in prostitution must have permits and adhere to numerous requirements. All other forms of prostitution remain illegal in the state of Nevada. Individuals seeking to purchase commercial sex outside of licensed and regulated brothels can be arrested and sanctioned. Prostitution is not legal in Washoe County. For more information about the Prostitution and Solicitation laws in Nevada click HERE.
Prostitution and sex trafficking have been known to be widespread in the city and surrounding areas of Washoe County for decades; several assaults and murders of prostituted women have also been documented. Among the ways in which the community has attempted to address those problems have been implementing demand reduction tactics. For example, in June, 2014, a Sparks resident was sentenced to five years in prison and 10 years of supervised release, as a result of an attempt to exchange laptop computers for sex with underage girls, according to an announcement by the United States Attorney for the District of Nevada. The investigation was conducted by the Innocence Lost Task Force, which is made up of the FBI and the Regional Street Enforcement Team, which includes the Reno Police Department, Sparks Police Department, FBI, and UNR Police Department. The man pleaded guilty to one count of attempted coercion and enticement of a minor for sex in addition to sentencing the offender was also required to register as a sex offender.
In October of 2020, 28 sex buyers were arrested in a weeklong child sex trafficking sting led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Northern Nevada Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force, with assistance from detectives and other personnel from the Sparks Police Department, as well as the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, Northern Nevada Regional Intelligence Center, Reno Police Department, and University of Nevada Police Department. The operation sought to identify and arrest people seeking to pay to sexually abuse minors. Also participating were agencies involved in the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, which includes the Carson City Sheriff’s Office, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the Nevada Highway Patrol, the Nevada Department of Corrections, and the Nevada Attorney General’s Office. All suspects were arrested on felony counts of soliciting a child for prostitution, and attempted child abuse. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were included in news reports.
In April, 2022, a Sparks man was sentenced to four years in prison for soliciting a child for prostitution and attempted abuse or neglect of a child involving sexual exploitation, the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office reported. The regional Human Exploitation and Trafficking unit conducted an undercover sting where a detective posed as a 17-year-old girl. A suspect arranged for a meeting and agreed to pay for sex. HEAT arrested the offender in July, 2021. An investigation showed the was soliciting other girls on Facebook, including two minors ages 15 and 17.
In December, 2022, a two-day undercover operation in Sparks targeting men soliciting adults and children for prostitution results in eight felony arrests and 10 misdemeanor arrests. The operation occurred at an undisclosed Sparks location and several agencies were involved. Six of the arrested people attempted to pay to engage in sexual abuse of juveniles, the statement said. Detectives were solicited by individuals on several online platforms, and arranged to engage in sexual activity with the undercover detectives, and where then arrested. The identities of all 18 sex buyers were publicly disclosed.
- Sparks Police Department
- Washoe County Sheriff’s Office
- Northern Nevada Regional Intelligence Center
- Reno Police Department
- University of Nevada Police Department
- FBI Safe Streets Task Force
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.justice.gov/usao-nv/sparks-man-sentenced-sex-trafficking-case (2014)
- https://www.washoesheriff.com/outreach/archive/ (2020)
- https://www.2news.com/three-cited-three-more-arrested-during-human-trafficking-operation (2021)
- https://www.washoecounty.gov/macias-vasquez-release.php (2022)
- https://www.kolotv.com/sparks-man-sent-prison-soliciting-teen-sex-using-facebook/ (2022)
- https://mynews4.com/eighteen-people-arrested-in-sparks-prostitution-sting-crime-safety-regional-heat-unit (2022)
- https://www.kolotv.com/eighteen-arrested-sparks-undercover-prostitution-sting/ (2022)
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- “Las Vegas, Reno Among 16 Cities Targeted in Child Prostitution Crackdown”, CBS/KTVN-TV 2, June 25 2008.
- “National Child Prostitution Ring Hits Northern Nevada”, CBS/KTVN-TV 2, October 27 2008.
- “Human Trafficking Happening in Northern Nevada”, NBC/KRNV-TV 4, August 7 2011.
- “‘Innocence Lost’ Saves Children from the Streets”, NBC/KRNV-TV 4, August 15 2011.
- “Non-Profit Group Fights Against Sex Trafficking in Our Area”, CBS/KTVN-TV 2, March 1 2013.
- “Brothels in Nevada Suffer as Web Disrupts Oldest Trade”, Bloomberg, August 28 2013.
- https://www.businessinsider.com/legal-prostitution-in-nevada-photos-of-brothels-marc-mcandrews (2017)
- https://thenevadaindependent.com/indy-explains-how-legal-prostitution-works-in-nevada (2018)
- https://mynews4.com/nevada-sex-workers-move-to-underground-market-due-to-brothel-closures (2020)
- https://mynews4.com/63-year-old-man-arrested-on-multiple-felony-charges-of-sex-trafficking-of-a-child (2020)
- https://sierranevadaally.org/nevadas-illegal-sex-industry-is-the-nations-largest-and-a-hub-for-sex-trafficking/ (2021)
- https://www.rgj.com/nevada-sex-workers-adjust-re-openings-and-covid-safety-measures (2021)
- https://thisisreno.com/report-tracks-federal-response-to-human-trafficking-in-nevada/ (2021)
- https://www.kolotv.com/three-arrested-three-cited-sting-johns-soliciting-prostitution/ (2021)
- https://www.reviewjournal.com/nevada-vows-to-keep-the-pressure-on-sex-traffickers-in-2021 (2021)
- https://www.kolotv.com/washoe-county-working-limit-human-trafficking-with-new-psa-campaign/ (2021)
- https://www.ktvn.com/rise-in-human-trafficking-in-washoe-county-prompts-vigorous-awareness-campaign-efforts (2021)
- https://thenevadaindependent.com/if-nevadans-are-serious-about-ending-sex-trafficking-they-must-abolish-legal-prostitution (2022)
- https://www.nevadacurrent.com/heartbreaking-abuse-of-children-demands-a-major-shift-in-outlook/ (2023)
- https://thenevadaindependent.com/updating-the-nevada-policy-tracker-a-guide-to-key-issues-in-the-2023-legislative-session (2023)
- https://legiscan.com/NV/bill/AB157/2023 (2023)
- https://www.leg.state.nv.us/82nd2023/Bill/9821/Overview (2023)
- https://www.fox5vegas.com/nevada-legislature-bill-would-impose-harsher-penalties-prostitution/ (2023)
- https://thenevadaindependent.com/sex-trafficking-survivors-find-place-to-heal-through-support-advocacy-groups (2023)
- https://thenevadaindependent.com/misconceptions-debates-about-legalization-surround-sex-work-in-nevada (2023)