Surprise, AZ

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

Surprise is a city of about 139,000 residents in Maricopa County, in Southwestern Arizona. Other nearby cities in the county include Glendale, Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Tempe.  Prostitution and sex trafficking have been well documented in the city and surrounding area for decades, and have generated complaints to police and a wide range of additional crimes such as sexual assault, drug and weapons offenses, and related child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often referred to as “child pornography” in state laws). For example, in June, 2022, the “mastermind” of a multi-state child sex trafficking conspiracy was sentenced to federal prison along with three related conspirators. The 26-year-old ringleader, a resident of Surprise, was convicted of running a trafficking scheme that involved at least 23 confirmed minors since 2016.  The conspiracy involved communicating with minors, gaining their trust, and collecting sexually explicit videos. One victim was forced to have sex with men and women, and one of the customers agreed to film his sexual abuse of the minor.

Demand reduction tactics have been used in local efforts to address such crimes.  In May 2022, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that an undercover operation targeting commercial sex and human trafficking led to 43 arrests. While most of the suspects were charged with prostitution, other counts stemming from the undercover “Spring Fling” operation include child sex trafficking, drugs, and misconduct involving weapons. In a press release, ICE said that the focus was on hotel and street prostitution enforcement and the suspects were arrested when they allegedly solicited and/or brokered deals for various sex acts.  ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations collaborated with police departments from Scottsdale, Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Gilbert, and Surprise, as well as the Arizona State University Police Department.

In August, 2022, the four-day ‘Operation Back In Session’ resulted in the arrests of eight people for alleged child sex crimes. The multi-agency effort involved police in Avondale, Scottsdale, and Surprise, as well as a Homeland Security division in Scottsdale. The eight men were reportedly accused of trying to sexually exploit those who they believed to be minors. The suspects faced a variety of charges, including child sex trafficking, attempted sexual conduct with a minor, and attempted money laundering. The men arrested were identified in news reports.

In September, 2022, the Surprise Police Department made 21 arrests around the Valley for child sex crimes and human trafficking. Operation “Back to Skool” was a Valley-wide initiative in which undercover detectives placed ads on websites known to be common for suspects seeking illegal sex acts. The 21 arrested men arrested ranged from ages 23 to 62 years old, and their identities were disclosed in some news reports. The Scottsdale, Goodyear, Peoria and Glendale police departments, as well as Homeland Security, U.S. Marshals and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, teamed up with the Surprise police to make the sting.

A large scale sex trafficking operation was conducted in the greater Phoenix area from January 30 through February 11, 2023, a time period with numerous large events occurring locally, including the Super Bowl, Waste Management Phoenix Open, the Barrett-Jackson classic car auction, and others. Officials announced that 48 felony arrests and 300 misdemeanor arrests were made, including 120 people who were sex buyers. During the operation, over 100 officers targeted adults trying to pay for sex with minors, online predators, and street prostitution in areas including Phoenix, Glendale, Mesa, Scottsdale and Tempe.

Key Partners

  • Surprise Police Department
  • Goodyear Police Department
  • Peoria Police Department
  • Glendale Police Department
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • U.S. Marshals Service
  • Maricopa County Attorney’s Office

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings; Identity Disclosure:

Background on Local Sex Trafficking, Prostitution, CSAM, Related Crimes:

State Arizona
Type City
Population 139007
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