|IT Based Tactics||✓|
Tarrant County is situated in the Dallas–Fort Worth metropolitan area. The county seat is Fort Worth and as of 2023, its population is well over 2 million. It is Texas’ third-most populous county and the 15th-most populous in the United States. Like most large population centers, human trafficking and prostitution activity in the area have been well documented for decades. For example, in 2013 two Tarrant County men were sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for sex trafficking. One man pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking of a minor, and the other pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion. Investigators had learned that a 16-year-old girl had been sexually exploited in prostitution for a suspect while she was working as a stripper at a Fort Worth night club. The suspect posted advertisements of her on websites and drove her to hotel rooms in the DFW area and directed her to have sex with men for money. The offender took all of the proceeds and reinvested a portion of it to sustain the criminal enterprise (e.g., food, clothing, condoms, hotel rooms). The second trafficker had exploited a 19-year-old woman in essentially the same way, and the victim testified that she was afraid to leave the offenders who had choked her, pulled her hair, poured drinks on her head and threatened to harm her – while pushing her to work longer hours and acquire more clients. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, as well as the North Texas Trafficking Task Force, including the Arlington, Dallas and Fort Worth police departments.
Among the tactics used to address both prostitution and sex trafficking are those that target consumer level demand for commercial sex. In 2018, a new Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office Intelligence Unit had made sex trafficking its top target. The unit conducted suppression stings where they targeted men trying to purchase sex. In August 2018, thirty male suspects were arrested and charged with prostitution as part of a joint operation between the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office and Arlington Police Department. The sting focused on people soliciting sex, and was affiliated with the National Johns Suppression Initiative, according to the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office.
Those arrested for attempting to pay to sexually abuse children can be charged with seriously felonies, including human trafficking and sexual abuse of a minor. For example, in March 2021, a joint undercover human trafficking operation resulted in six arrests in Tarrant County. Undercover detectives from the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office and collaborating agencies conducted a joint human trafficking operation to target child sexual abusers. Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office detectives utilized personal advertisements, covert social media and communication platforms to communicate with potential suspects seeking to sexual access to a minor under the age of seventeen. During the operation, after soliciting sex from undercover detectives posing as minors, six suspects traveled to an agreed location to meet them. They were arrested, jailed, and their identities disclosed to the media.
Several cities within Tarrant County also focus on combating demand. For example, the Fort Worth Police Department began conducting large-scale street-level reverse stings in the early 1980s. One operation in 1986 netted 81 male sex buyers in a single sweep. Shaming is also an important element of Fort Worth police response to combating commercial sex sales. In 2007, a program called “John TV” was introduced, and police have posted the names and photographs of people arrested for solicitation on both the city’s web site and on its community cable TV.
In January 2023, forty-six individuals were recently arrested during a multi-agency operation – that included the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office – targeting the demand for commercial sex across North Texas. The joint law enforcement operation coincided with the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign to highlight Human Trafficking awareness month. Among those arrested were a volunteer firefighter, youth pastor, a high school teacher and football coach, and the director of operations for a large hospital network in North Texas. About the operation, the Tarrant County Sheriff said:
“The victims of these heinous crimes are treated like commodities, used to make as much money as possible, as quickly as possible. Those who traffic victims are the scourge of the earth, and we will continue to target those responsible for the trafficking and those who solicit sex from them.”
Loss of employment is also a consequence of buying sex in the county. For example, in the fall of 2021, a Tarrant County audio and video contractor was arrested on multiple charges of criminal solicitation of a minor. According to reports, the offender used his position as an audio-visual sub-contractor through a local audio-visual company to contact young girls in church congregations and hire them under the guise of being an intern. The offender’s position allowed him to travel to multiple church congregations throughout the Metroplex. According to investigators, the offender was employed by Epic Resource Group of Dallas and “displayed a pattern over several years of grooming interns then trying to get them to perform sexual acts, including intercourse, oral sex, masturbation, stripping and taking nude photographs. Three of his suspected victims attended campuses of Compass Church, and at least one, the victim named in the affidavit, was a minor.” Officials at Compass Church fired him in 2016 after a woman who was over 18 accused him of making sexual advances, but he was rehired after the victim left the area. The investigation was initiated after one of the victims reported the incident to a camp counselor. As a result of his arrest, officials said they have banned the offender from all Compass campuses and that his employer has been notified.
IT-based tactics have been incorporated into the multi-site demand reduction operations coordinated by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. Since 2011, the Cook County (IL) Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) has been coordinating periodic reverse sting operations occurring simultaneously in multiple cities throughout the United States. The collaborative effort was initially called the “National Day of John Arrests,” and then in 2015 was renamed National Johns Suppression Initiative (NJSI). The coalition of agencies that participate in these coordinated enforcement efforts grew from eight to more than 100. The 19 NJSI operations from 2011 through 2021 have involved the collaboration of over 140 law enforcement agencies, and have collectively produced the arrests of more than 10,000 sex buyers. Since August 2018, some of the NJSI operations have incorporated the use of decoy internet ads that connected to an AI bot, created by Childsafe.ai. The bot interacts with sex buyers to the point where it sends a deterrence message warning of the legal and social dangers of prostitution and sex trafficking.
Initially, the Cook County Sheriff’s Police and eight other agencies utilized the bot, including the principle police departments and sheriff’s offices in Boston, MA; Des Moines, WA; McHenry County, IL; New York, NY; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; Tarrant County, TX; and Upper Merion Township, PA. Across several subsequent NJSI operations, 18 cities and counties used the Childsafe.ai bots to combat demand.
The childsafe bot and other similar products can continuously scrape data or monitor “signal” from open source electronic communications, analyze the raw input, and flag messages as probably depicting a commercial sex offer or transaction. They also engage buyers in some form of interaction designed to deter individuals from attempting to purchase sex, at the present “point of purchase” moment as well as in the future. This approach seeks to disrupt (and ultimately collapse) commercial sex markets by reducing demand.
- Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office
- Homeland Security
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Homeland Security Investigations
- North Texas Trafficking Task Force
- Arlington Police Department
- Dallas Police Department
- Fort Worth Police Department
- Texas Department of Public Safety
- Valiant Hearts
- “FW Police Arrest 81 Men in Prostitution Sting”, Dallas Morning News, April 20 1986.
- “19 Men Arrested in Fort Worth Prostitution Sting; Riverside Residents’ Complaints Prompt Undercover Investigation”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 19 2000.
- “Police Arrest Eight Men in ‘John Sting’; Officers Target Area Frequented by Prostitutes”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 21 2001.
- https://www.star-telegram.com/news/Tarrant County prostitution sting nets 30; will it curb demand in sex trafficking (2018)
- https://www.wfaa.com/tarrant-county-prostitution-sting-nets-30-will-it-curb-demand-in-sex-trafficking (2018)
- https://www.nbcdfw.com/CPS-Worker-Nabbed-in-Online-Sex-Sting (2018)
- https://dfw.cbslocal.com/north-texas-cps-worker-charged-online-sex-solicitation-sting (2018)
- https://www.cookcountysheriff.org/national-sex-buyer-sting-nets-more-than-390-arrests (2019)
- https://www.kwtx.com/undercover-operation-nets-6-texas-men-accused-of-soliciting-sex-from-detectives-posing-as-minors-online (2021)
- https://dfw.cbslocal.com/undercover-human-trafficking-operation-texas-men-solicited-sex-detectives-posing-minors (2021)
- http://www.ntxe-news.com/publish/article (2023)
- https://www.cbsnews.com/video/prostitution-sting-operation-in-frisco-results-in-the-arrest-of-46-men-over-2-days (2023)
Identity Disclosure, “John TV”:
- “John TV” Overview, Fort Worth Police Department.
- “Prostitution Suspects to Be in the Glare of the Public Eye”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 28 2007.
- “‘John TV’ Premieres”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 15 2007.
- https://dfw.cbslocal.com/kenneth-tyler-hostin-position-audio-visual-company-solicit-sex-acts-girls-churches-tarrant-county-sheriffs-office (2021)
- https://ministrywatch.com/church-audio-visual-contractor-charged-with-criminal-solicitation-of-intern (2021)
- https://goodwordnews.com/man-accused-of-sexually-harassing-girls-while-working-with-churches-in-tarrant-county (2021)
- https://christiannewsnow.com/man-accused-of-sexually-harassing-girls-through-his-work-with-texas-churches (2021)
- https://www.nbcdfw.com//a-v-contractor-who-hired-interns-at-churches-accused-of-solicitation-of-a-minor (2021)
- https://www.cookcountysheriff.org/national-sex-buyer-sting-nets-more-than-390-arrests (2019)
- https://www.cookcountysheriff.org/national-sex-buyer-sting-nets-more-than-500-arrests (2019)
- https://www.cookcountysheriff.org/national-sex-buyer-stings-reach-10000-arrests (2020)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Dozens Rescued from Sex Ring, Feds Say”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 18 2002.
- “3 Suspects in Prostitution Inquiry Will Be Charged as Juveniles”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 22 2008.
- “Former Soldier Charged in Fort Worth Trafficking Case”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 20 2012.
- “Human Trafficking on the Rise Across North Texas”, CBS/KTVT-TV 11, September 21 2012.
- “A Tarrant County Couple Pimped Out a 15-Year-Old Girl for Four Months, the Feds Say”, Dallas Observer, April 18 2013.
- “Tarrant County Men Get 15 Years for Forcing Women into Prostitution”, Dallas Morning News, June 5 2013.
- “Sex Trafficking Sentence in Fort Worth”, CBS/KEYE-TV 42, October 18 2013.
- “Texas Woman Sentenced for Forcing Girl into Prostitution”, CBS/KWTX-TV 10, October 18 2013.
- “Woman Gets Six Years in Prison for Forcing Teen into Prostitution in Fort Worth”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 18 2013.
- “Man Sentenced after Trying to Force 15-Year-Old Girl into Prostitution”, CBS/KHOU-TV 11, November 13 2013.
- “Missouri Couple Charged with Luring Girls into Prostitution,” Lake Expo, August 27 2015.
- https://tylerpaper.com/tyler-prostitution-case-reveals-insight-into-modern-day-commercial-sex (2017)
- https://www.news-journal.com/tyler-man-arrested-on-child-sex-trafficking-charge (2018)
Background on Prostitution in the Area: