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Weirton is a city located in the northern panhandle of West Virginia and has a population of roughly 18,500. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. The town’s strip clubs have been the focus of many prostitution investigations. Sex trafficking is also well documented in the area. For example, in 2015, a national FBI initiative to crack down on child sex trafficking included Hancock County in its sweep, resulting in local arrests. Operation Cross Country IX was carried out in 135 cities and involved dozens of cooperating law enforcement agencies, including the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI Wheeling Field Office. Although the operation was directed at child sex trafficking, it also yielded local arrests relating to prostitution and solicitation.
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. Among the methods used to combat prostitution in the city have been reverse stings and publicizing the identities of the men arrested. For example, in April 2016, Weirton Police conducted an undercover prostitution sting, posting online ads and placing an officer posing as prostituted woman at a hotel. A man allegedly texted and called the woman and told her he was a police officer, and that if she wanted to stay out of trouble she would have to perform sexual acts. Police arrested him after he arrived to meet with her, and charged him with one count of soliciting prostitution and two counts of impersonating an officer.
In January, 2022, a Weirton man tried to meet with a prostituted woman but instead was engaged by an undercover agent with the Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force and Salem Ohio police. The undercover task force posted an ad online for solicitation of prostitution and the suspect from Weirton responded to the ad. The suspect allegedly asked the undercover agent, who he thought to be a prostituting woman, to smoke a cigarette while performing a sex act on him and an additional sex act, and agreed to pay $25. The man was issued a summons for misdemeanor charges of engaging in prostitution and possession of criminal tools after being detained. He was scheduled to appear in Columbiana County Municipal Court.
- Weirton Police Department
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.wtrf.com/ohio-man-arrested-after-prostitution-sting (2016)
- https://www.wtrf.com/weirton/weirton-man-arrested-in-undercover-prostitution-sting/ (2022)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- https://www.weirtondailytimes.com/prostitution-arrest-details-get-outlined/ (2015)
- https://www.wtae.com/article/8-arrested-in-washington-county-prostitution-sting (2016)
- https://www.weirtondailytimes.com/weirton-man-among-those-arrested-in-undercover-sting-operation/ (2022)