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Tangipahoa Parish is located in the southeastern region of Louisiana. Its population is roughly 135,000 residents. Its parish seat is Amite City and its largest city is Hammond. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the communities and unincorporated areas of the parish. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious problems associated with commercial sex in the area is child sex trafficking. For example, in June 2015, the Tangipahoa Parish Street Crimes Unit and Narcotics Agents arrested a 40-year-old woman in the act of soliciting prostitution. The investigation began when several complaints were reported regarding female”streetwalkers” on Hwy 1064 near the Oak Street Intersection. Investigators used an undercover agent who rode through the suspected area looking for suspects, and the undercover vehicle was soon approached by a woman who let herself in through the passenger door, and then solicited sexual acts for cash. The undercover agent accepted the offer and was directed to drive to the end of the “dead end” road, where detectives initiated a stop on the agent’s vehicle and placed the woman in custody.
In a far more egregious incident, five people were arrested and faced federal charges for imprisoning and abusing an autistic woman. In an indictment made public in July 2016, prosecutors said the woman was kept in a cage outside the Tangipahoa Parish home where the suspects lived. Prosecutors said she was coerced into manual labor such as bathroom and kitchen cleaning and subjected to psychological and physical abuses: threats of harm or death if she didn’t obey, beatings, being burned with a cigarette lighter, and having human waste from a septic tank dumped on her. One of the suspects was charged with shooting her with a BB gun. At one point, according to charging documents, the woman was forced to eat the cremation ashes of her late mother as the defendants laughed. Two of the suspects, a husband and wife team, faced a sex trafficking charge for planning to force the victim into prostitution. They also faced labor and housing law violations, in addition to a hate crime count, in which prosecutors said the injuries to the victim were motivated by her disability. They were also charged with theft of government funds for stealing more than $8,700 in Social Security benefits meant for the victim. One suspect was charged separately for forced labor conspiracy. Four of the suspects faced possible life sentences. Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies made the initial arrests in 2016 after the woman was found wandering around the back yard of the residence, appearing malnourished and covered with insect bites. The victim was placed in the custody of the state Department of Health and Hospitals protective services.
To combat prostitution and sex trafficking in the area, local law enforcement agencies have generally focused on victims and pimps/traffickers, and are not known to have conducted proactive stings targeting sex buyers. However, there is one case in which a sex buyer was arrested and his identity published. In September 2015, an Amite City police officer was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting two women, one of whom filed a lawsuit saying he posed as a sex buyer, then when she arrived for a prostitution meeting, she was handcuffed and raped at gunpoint. According to the complaint filed in federal court, the victim (plaintiff) claimed that the officer responded to an advertisement she posted online for “escort services.” He texted her his address, and she went to his home.When the woman arrived, the officer showed her his police badge and handcuffed her, saying he was arresting her for prostitution. However, instead of taking her to jail, he took the woman to “a remote private drive in a wooded area” where he forced her into the bed of his truck at gunpoint, ripped off her clothes, and raped her. The plaintiff sought unspecified damages from the officer, the city of Amite, its police department, and the police chief. The man was arrested, suspended without pay, and charged with aggravated rape, two counts of second-degree kidnapping, armed robbery, and sexual battery in relation to the two incidents.
- Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office
- Amite City Police Department
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/communities (2015)
- https://www.courthousenews.com/escort-claims-rogue-cop-raped-her (2015)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- http://ldh.la.gov/assets/docs/SurveillanceReports/php/PDF/Tangipahoa/PHPTangipahoa.pdf (2005)
- https://www.actionnews17.com/news/natalbany-walker-charged-with-soliciting-prostitution (2015)
- http://www.kwch.com/content/misc/Woman-with-autism-kept-in-cage-prostituted-forced-to-eat-mothers-ashes (2016)
- https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/crime_police (2016)
- https://www.pulseheadlines.com/police-arrests-people-amite-city-human-trafficking (2016)
- http://www.fox8live.com/story/graphic-woman-with-autism-kept-in-cage-forced-to-eat-mothers-ashes (2016)
- https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/communities/livingston_tangipahoa (2018)