Utah County, UT

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Utah County is located in central Utah, about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City, along Interstate 15. Its county seat and largest city is Provo, and its population is roughly 665,000. 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 victim of human trafficking. The UCSO announced 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. The arrested are accused of trying to lure minors via 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 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, an undercover detective, using the same app and stated he was looking for “girls” to manage. He stated he had done this sort of thing in the past and had a system to avoid getting caught. The man was booked into the Utah County Jail for 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 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 for paid sex on social media; 18 people responded to the ad, reportedly arranging to meet with who they believed were 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 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. 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 with an undercover officer who he believed 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 to have other sexual contacts with the 6-year-old girl.

In 2021 another online sting by a Utah County task force arrested 21 people. The police also managed to identify and rescue three victims of sex trafficking, in large part because of a donation from a local company.

Since 1993, Utah law has stated that anyone convicted of prostitution or 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

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Arrests of Sex Buyers, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Local Sex Trafficking:

Background on Local Prostitution:

State Utah
Type County
Population 665665
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