Sussex County, DE

Tactics Used

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

Sussex County is located in southern Delaware, on the Delmarva Peninsula, and has a population of about 225,000. The county seat is Georgetown, and other substantial towns within the county are Seaford, Ocean View, Rehoboth Beach, and Lewes.  Prostitution has been identified by police and residents as a problem in these cities and throughout the county, and sex trafficking and violence in commercial sex encounters are also well-documented. To address the consumer-level demand driving these issues, county and city law enforcement agencies have conducted reverse stings. For example, one operation conducted in Georgetown in December 2012, resulted in the arrest of five sex buyers. Although the logistical details of the operation were not released (perhaps to protect the sanctity of future undercover investigations), the GPD did provide members of the local media with the names, ages and mugshots of the men arrested. In early November 2013, police conducted a second reverse sting, this time resulting in the arrest of 13 johns. During both operations, the GPD was assisted by officers from the nearby Lewes Police Department.

Ocean View police receive frequent complaints from residents and businesses about prostitution, and among the attempts to address commercial sexual exploitation have been the use of tactics targeting demand. In the 1990s, over 1oo prostitution arrests per year were made, but reports did not separate the number of buyers versus sellers. In Seaford, local police have periodically conducted reverse stings. For example, in November 2017 the Seaford Police Department assisted the Dover Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security (Homeland Security Investigations Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in executing an undercover prostitution operation in Seaford. Police said six men were arrested on prostitution charges. The names, ages, and city of residence for the men arrested were released by police.  In August, 2018, an undercover prostitution operation led to the arrests of eight male sex buyers in Seaford. The individuals were arrested and charged with patronizing a prostitute and loitering to engage in prostitution. One of the men was booked on charges of patronizing a prostitute, loitering to engage in prostitution and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Police said the latter charges were filed against him after he solicited an undercover female officer for sex while his two children were in the back seat of his vehicle. All were identified in news reports. Seaford police were assisted by the Delaware State Police Troop 5 P.A.C.E. Unit and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In Rehoboth Beach,  Delaware State Police have conducted stings at massage parlors since 2011. In December 2014, police raided two parlors after receiving tips about prostitution occurring within the businesses. During the investigation, undercover officers entered the businesses posing as potential customers. After detectives were offered sexual acts by female employees, they “refused the service and returned with warrants,” arresting three prostituted women in the process. Five johns were also intercepted during the sting. Each was “issued a criminal summons for patronizing a prostitute or requesting sexual contact for a fee.” Although the logistical details of their arrests (i.e., whether or not traditional reverse stings tactics such as a female police decoy were used) were not made public, all of the men’s names, ages, and hometowns were publicized in local media outlets. One such paper, the Cape Gazette, asked a representative with the State Police why the johns’ mugshots were not released. The officer clarified that “there are no photos of the men because police do not take photos [of suspects] for a summons.”

Key Partners

Key Sources

State Delaware
Type County
Population 225322
Location
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