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Taunton is a city of roughly 60,000 residents, located in Massachusetts’ Bristol County south of Boston and Brockton and just northeast of Fall River and Providence, Rhode Island. Prostitution has posed chronic and visible problems in the community for several years, and has generated numerous complaints to law enforcement and city officials. In addition, the city has documented several targeted sexual assaults by men attempting to purchase sex (on both women offering acts of prostitution and female bystanders who declined commercial solicitation requests), homicides of women involved in prostitution, robberies of sex buyers, and cases of sex trafficking. In March 2014 two Taunton residents were charged with offenses associated with holding a “mentally disabled” woman against her will, drugging her, and arranging for her to be sexually abused for a fee. The offenders were arraigned and charged with one count each of trafficking a person for sexual servitude, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, and threatening to commit a crime. The woman was able to escape and make her way to a hospital, where she was treated for multiple injuries.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. The Taunton Police Department has conducted periodic reverse stings to intercept sex buyers since at least 2005, if not earlier. These operations are typically conducted at street level, using one or more female undercover officers as decoys. Arrestees’ identities are sometimes publicized in press, but not consistently. In the mid-1990s, the Boston Globe reported that the city had begun airing the arraignments of sex buyers on a local access channel. It is unclear how long the program ran, and/or if it remains on air.
In April 2017, two men were arrested in a street level reverse sting, utilizing a female officer acting as a decoy and including a local police detective and a detectives from the Northern Bristol County Drug Task Force. The action was taken in response to complaints of residents living in the area of Harrison Street and the surrounding area, which includes Harrison Avenue and Winthrop Street. Each of the men were charged with a single count of offering to engage in sexual contact for a fee. The men avoided trial and any chance of conviction by agreeing “forthwith,” meaning that day, to pay $500 in court costs.
In July 2018, the Taunton Police Department conducted a street-level reverse sting operation, targeting the traditional “hotspots” on Harrison Street up to Winthrop Street/Route 44, Harrison Avenue, and nearby High Street. Two men were arrested when they tried soliciting sex from two women who turned out to be officers posing as prostituted women. The price ranges the men negotiated ranged from $40 to $100. The first arrest came at around 2:45 p.m. on a Wednesday after police observed a man who spent 40 minutes driving past and making eye contact with the undercover officers, eventually pulling into a parking lot on Winthrop Street, at which point the female officers approached and began a conversation. The suspect raised the subject of sex and offered $100 if they would engage in what he called “porn sex.” After the women suggested he drive across the street and park in an eye clinic parking lot, male undercover officers using wireless transmitters arrived and arrested the man, charging him with a single count of agreeing to engage in sexual conduct for a fee. The second arrest that day occurred shortly after 9:15 p.m. under similar circumstances, when the suspect pulled over on Harrison Street and offered one of the female officers $40 if she would perform a sexual act. The identities of the arrested men were publicly disclosed.
- Taunton Police Department
- Northern Bristol County Drug Task Force
- Taunton District Court
Street-Level Reverse Stings:
- “‘Johns’ Targeted in Sting Operation,” Brockton Enterprise, November 3 2005.
- “Hooker Sting Nabs 5,” Taunton Daily Gazette, August 3 2007.
- “Anti-Prostitution Sting Leads to Arrests in Harrison Street Area,” Taunton Daily Gazette, September 25 2010.
- “Prostitution Busts in Taunton Add up Following Arrests,” Taunton Daily Gazette, October 4 2010.
- “Street Walkers Flourish near City Center, Police Make New Push to Rid Area of Prostitutes,” Brockton Enterprise, October 4 2010.
- http://www.tauntongazette.com/news/20170413/two-arrested-in-prostitution-sting (2017)
- http://www.tauntongazette.com/news/two-taunton-men-caught-up-in-prostitution-sting (2018)
Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- “Taunton Siblings Held on Sex Trafficking Charges,” Taunton Daily Gazette, March 13 2014.
- “Siblings Face Human Trafficking Charges,” CBS/WPRI-TV 12, March 14 2014.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Prostitution-Related Arrests on High St.,” Taunton Daily Gazette, October 24 2000.
- “Local Woman Arrested Again,” Taunton Daily Gazette, March 10 2001.
- “Undercover Work Leads to Arrest of Alleged Pimp, Prostitute,” Taunton Daily Gazette, June 20 2002.
- “Crack Cocaine Fuels Taunton’s Hooker Surge,” Brockton Enterprise, April 23 2006.
- “Downtown Taunton Battling Image Problems,” Brockton Enterprise, July 18 2006.
- “Camera Aimed at Curbing Crime,” Brockton Enterprise, September 12 2006.
- “Surveillance on Tap for Flat Iron,” Taunton Daily Gazette, February 14 2007.
- “Surveillance Camera OK’d for Flat Iron Site,” Taunton Daily Gazette, May 9 2007.
- “Sex Services Lead to Bust,” Taunton Daily Gazette, August 11 2007.
- “Prostitution Problem,” Taunton Daily Gazette, August 10 2008.
- “Working the Streets,” Taunton Daily Gazette, August 11 2008.
- “Cycle of the Streets Hard to Break,” Taunton Daily Gazette, September 7 2008.
- “Sweeping Problem into the Streets,” Taunton Daily Gazette, September 19 2008.
- “Woman Busted after Propositioning Undercover Cop,” Taunton Daily Gazette, December 9 2009.
- “Woman Charged with Prostitution,” Taunton Daily Gazette, September 11 2012.
- “Prostitution Suspect Leads Police to Drugs,” Taunton Daily Gazette, January 19 2013.
- “Police Issue Summonses, Make Arrest for Sex Offenses,” Taunton Daily Gazette, February 20 2013.
- “Police Arrest Two on Prostitution Charges,” Taunton Daily Gazette, May 16 2013.
- “Two Arrested in Massage Parlor Sting,” Taunton Daily Gazette, September 29 2013.
- “Taunton Woman Issued Summons for Prostitution,” Taunton Daily Gazette, August 1 2014.
- “Two Prostitution Arrests in Two Days,” Taunton Daily Gazette, May 23 2015.
- “Man Caught with Alleged Prostitute,” Taunton Daily Gazette, June 5 2015.
- http://www.tauntongazette.com/news/20171120/taunton-woman-26-arrested-for-prostitution-in-police-sting (2017)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Death Spurs Fears about Serial Killer; Slaying of Taunton Woman Worries Brockton Authorities,” Boston Globe, August 11 1993.
- “Slain Prostitute Had Fear of Strangers,” Boston Herald, August 11 1993.
- “Taunton Man Suspected of Killing Woman Found in Bog,” Boston Herald, January 18 2003.
- “Man Questioned in Woman’s Death Held for Evaluation,” Quincy Patriot Ledger, January 20 2003.
- “Taunton Man Charged in Rape of Woman,” Boston Globe, February 28 2005.
- “Gouveia Pleads Not Guilty,” Taunton Daily Gazette, March 1 2005.
- “Admitted Prostitute Kidnapped,” Taunton Daily Gazette, March 4 2005.
- “Violent Web Scam Lures Victims to Area,” Brockton Enterprise, June 4 2006.
- “Rape Trial Nears End,” Taunton Daily Gazette, March 14 2008.
- “City Man Found Not Guilty in Rape Case,” Taunton Daily Gazette, March 15 2008.
- “Taunton Man Charged with Rape, Impersonating Cop,” Brockton Enterprise, July 27 2012.
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