Vancouver, WA

Tactics Used

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

Vancouver is a city of about 186,000 residents, situated directly across the Columbia River from Portland, OR. It is the county seat and largest city of Clark County, Washington. It is a part of the PortlandVancouverHillsboro Metropolitan Statistical Area which has a combined population area of approximately 2.5 million residents. Similar to Portland, the City of Vancouver has struggled with substantial problems related to prostitution and sex trafficking for decades. Reports have cited the city’s location along the Interstate-5 corridor as a “stop” on several sex trafficking and prostitution circuits. During the late 1980s into the early 1990s, a serial killer who targeted prostituted women is believed to have killed at least six women in and around Vancouver. An example of a more routine set of problems can be seen through the three-month investigation in 2015 within the city’s Maplewood neighborhood. An eight-unit apartment complex and adjoining home were identified as problematic by numerous complaints from area residents, and a police investigation revealed a constant stream of drug sales, gang activity and prostitution in that neighborhood. Police made 19 arrests on charges of drug trafficking, drug use, prostitution and larceny. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is child sex trafficking. In recent years, Vancouver has been named as the hometown and operating base of three separate domestic minor sex traffickers. For example, in 2022, a 34-year-old Vancouver, Washington man was found guilty by a federal jury of one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking; three counts of sex trafficking of a child; two counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion; and three counts of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity. According to reports, the offender had been sex trafficking multiple female juveniles in and around the Portland-Vancouver–Hillsboro MSA by posting ads on websites known for prostitution and commercial sex.

To address these issues, the Vancouver Police Department has developed a strategy that targets underlying consumer-level demand. In November 2013, VPD detectives conducted a web-based reverse sting. Officers placed a decoy advertisement to the “Escorts” section of Backpage.com; undercover detectives then fielded calls from individuals who responded to the listing, and arranged to meet suspected sex buyers at a nearby hotel. Vancouver police detectives said an overwhelming number of people tried to meet with the undercover officer who was conducting a prostitution sting, and that at many points during the process, detectives were unable to keep pace with the volume of phone calls. The nine-hour sting operation led to the arrest of 15 male sex buyers ranging in age from 22 to 57 years old. Their names and ages were publicly disclosed and carried by some (but not all) local news outlets. Each of the men was charged with “attempting to patronizing a prostitute” and transported to the Clark County Jail, where they were cited and released.

In 2018, the VPD and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office participated in a web-based, prostitution and sex trafficking investigation in the greater Portland area. The multi-agency investigation, led by the Oregon State Police, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, and the Portland Police Bureau, consisted of conducting missions focused on reducing the demand for commercial sex at four different hotels in the greater Portland metro area. Participating agencies posted decoy ads on websites known for commercial sex and sex trafficking and communicated with potential sex buyers, arranging a time and location to meet. As a result of the investigation, a total of thirty-six people across the Portland metro region were arrested and charged with crimes related to prostitution. In Vancouver, VPD officers cited four men — aged 18, 22, 42, and 54 — for patronizing a prostitute. One of the men was also arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine.

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrests, Cameras, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Washington
Type City
Population 186192
Location
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