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Warren County, Virginia is within the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area and has a population of approximately 410,000 residents. The county seat is the city of Front Royal, VA. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in that city and throughout Warren County. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses.
Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking. For example, in May 2017, a regional work group led by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) was working to fight human trafficking in the Shenandoah Valley, and training was attended by officers and staff from the Front Royal Police Department and Warren County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. The training focused on human trafficking offenses, the effects on the community, and how to combat human trafficking including how to effectively set up and run undercover operations. Subsequent local operations include a human trafficking investigation in 2018, in which the Front Royal Police Department participated in the arrest and eventual conviction of a man who used heroin as a means to control numerous women he trafficked as part of a commercial prostitution ring in the Western District of Virginia. The man faced a sentence between 20 years and life for charges including interstate transportation for prostitution and distribution of fentanyl resulting in death. He had operated a prostitution ring with at least six victims in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. In March, 2019, the FBI Washington Field Office’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force arrested nine people involved in commercial sex on a variety of charges, two of whom were Front Royal residents. In that operation, police and the FBI investigated classified ads suspected of involving child sex trafficking. In another, three Virginia men were arrested on human trafficking and prostitution charges; one of the men was from Front Royal. In another cases in 2019, four people were arrested in Front Royal, and charges included prostitution, maintaining a bawdy place, and child cruelty (the latter stemmed from minor children being in the home while the other alleged crimes took place).
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. A law enforcement respondent to the 2021 National Assessment Survey reported that the following demand reduction tactics have been used in Warren County: auto seizure, public education, community service.
Sex buyer arrests and employment loss have also occurred within the county. For example, in a case spanning May 2018 into April, 2019, the mayor of Front Royal was charged with soliciting prostitution. He was indicted for allegedly visiting a massage parlor in Front Royal on two occasions. The man was scheduled to appear in Warren County Circuit Court, and announced that he would resign from office.
- Fort Royal Police Department
- Warren County Circuit Court
- Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office
- Virginia State Police
National Assessment Survey – 2021
Sex Buyer Arrests, Employment Loss, Identity Disclosure:
- https://nypost.com/mayor-accused-of-soliciting-prostitute-at-massage-parlor/ (2019)
- https://www.nvdaily.com/mayor-resigns-amid-court-proceedings (2019)
- https://www.nbcwashington.com/Front-Royal-Mayor-Charged-with-Soliciting-Prostitute (2019)
- https://www.nvdaily.com/nvdaily/front-royal-town-council-appoints-new-mayor (2019)
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- https://www.cnn.com/justice/virginia-prostitution-ring/index.html (2012)
- https://www.localdvm.com/news/eleven-arrested-in-prostitution-sting (2014)
- https://www.winchesterva.gov/human-trafficking-working-group-conducts-operations-winchester (2017)
- https://theriver953.com/man-convicted-running-western-va-prostitution-ring/ (2019)
- https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/9-Charged-for-Human-Trafficking-in-Arlington-County (2019)
- https://www.arlnow.com/arlington-police-fbi-arrest-9-after-prostitution-bust/ (2019)
- http://www.fox5dc.com/multiple-people-facing-charges-in-arlington-co-following-human-trafficking-operation (2019)
- https://wjla.com/news/local/human-trafficking-operation-arlington-10-misdemeanor-felony-charges (2019)
- https://www.capitalgazette.com/ph-ho-cf-virginia-men-human-trafficking-1112-2-001-photo.html (2019)
- https://www.justice.gov/man-convicted-sex-trafficking-distributing-fatal-dose (2019)
- https://www.localdvm.com/prostitution-investigation-nets-four-in-front-royal/ (2019)