Utah County, UT

Tactics Used

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

Utah County is a located in central Utah, about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City along Interstate 15. Its county seat and largest city is Provo, and the population is roughly 640,000.  Other noteworthy cities within Utah County include American Fork, Lehi, and Orem.  Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented problems within several of the cities and unincorporated areas of the county.  For example, the UCSO conducted an undercover operation in July 2018 to identify a 16-year-old Utah County juvenile who was a victim of human trafficking. The UCSO said that the juvenile is now living with family and receiving services.  In May, 2019, the Provo and Orem police departments collaborated on an undercover sting operation in Utah County that netted 13 arrests of men accused of trying to lure minors on the internet to meet for paid sexual abuse. Police initiated conversations with the suspects on sites and apps such as Grindr, Whisper and Craigslist. In case in February, 2020 a former police vice squad lieutenant was arrested during a prostitution sting when investigators said he offered to “manage” women for prostitution.  The Utah County Sheriff’s Office had conducted a human trafficking operation,  posting a decoy message on an undisclosed social media app.  The suspect contacted an undercover detective and arranged to pay $150 for sex.  The man also contacted a second woman, who was also an undercover detective, using the same app and stated he was looking for “girls” to let him be their manager. He stated he had done this sort of thing in the past and had a system to avoid people getting caught. The man was booked into the Utah County Jail for investigation of exploiting a prostitute, patronizing a prostitute, two counts of lewdness, and sexual battery.

In an effort to reduce the demand for prostitution, the municipal Police Departments and the County Sheriff’s Office have  conducted web-based reverse stings for many years. For example, in May, 2009, the Provo Police Department officers posted ads on Craigslist and Backpage advertising sex for sale. Two undercover female officers made 11 appointments for a four- to five-hour window on May 7, and nine men showed up offering to pay for sex. The men were all arrested and cited with a class B misdemeanor of patronizing a prostitute. In 2018, deputies and officers with the Lehi Police Department placed an ad on social media, and 18 different people responded to the ad, reportedly arranging to meet with people they believed to be prostitutes. Of those 18 people, charges of prostitution, a class B misdemeanor, and patronizing a prostitute, a class A misdemeanor were brought. According to the UCSO, those who were charged with prostitution were cited and released, and those who were charged with patronizing a prostitute were arrested and booked into the Utah County Jail.

In another 2018 undercover operation, 23 additional people were either arrested or cited, bringing the total number of arrests from the operations to 41 individuals.  One was booked into the Utah County Jail on suspicion of exploiting a prostitute, a third-degree felony and misdemeanor charges of sexual battery, patronizing a prostitute and two counts of lewdness. A another was arrested and booked into the Utah County Jail on nine counts of enticing a minor over the internet, all second-degree felonies.  He had reportedly talked online to an undercover officer who he thought was a mother of 12- and 6-year-old girls. According to the UCSO, the man told the officer that he wanted the young girls to perform oral sex on him and that he wanted to have other sexual contact with the 6-year-old girl.

Since 1993, Utah law states that anyone convicted of prostitution or of patronizing a prostitute must “submit to a mandatory test to determine if the offender is an HIV-positive individual. The mandatory test shall be required and conducted prior to sentencing.”

 

Key Partners

  • Utah County Sheriff’s Office
  • Provo Police Department
  • Provo City Attorney’s Office
  • Provo Police Department
  • Lehi Police Department
  • Orem Department of Public Safety
  • Utah’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Shaming of Arrested Sex Buyer:

Background on Local Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children:

Background on Local Prostitution:

State Utah
Type County
Population 636235
Location
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