Wheeling is a city of approximately 30,000 residents, located along the northern panhandle of West Virginia. Situated along Interstate 70 near the Pennsylvania and Ohio borders, the city has struggled with sex trafficking and prostitution activity in the area’s rest stops and local hotels. To address the issue, the Wheeling Police Department has incorporated the use of street-level reverse stings to identify and apprehend sex buyers. Operations, which may utilize one or more undercover female officers as decoys, are frequently conducted in response to tips and complaints from local residents. As a warning to other would-be sex buyers, police routinely release the names and identities of offenders to the local media. For example, in 2008 a prostitution sting netted more than 20 arrests, including 11 men who were charged with solicitation after attempting to buy sex from the city’s female officers posed as prostitutes in city neighborhoods. The operation was prompted by the complaints of residents and business owners in two city neighborhoods, as part of a multi-day, “directed patrol mission” to combat city nuisances.
In January 2010, WPD officers announced that they would join forces with the Ohio County Sheriff’s Office to create a Community Action Team (CAT) to further curtail commercial sex sales and other illegal activity in the area. In their efforts, the WPD and OCSO will be supported by the Ohio Valley Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, the West Virginia State Police, the Ohio County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Wheeling Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. In an joint statement to the local media, WPD and OCSO representatives stated that expanding sting operations will be a top priority.
- Wheeling Police Department
- Ohio County Sheriff’s Office
- West Virginia State Police
- Ohio Valley Drug and Violent Crime Task Force
- Ohio County Prosecutor’s Office
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms – Wheeling Satellite Office
- Reverse Stings:
- “13 Arrested in Wheeling Prostitution Stings”, NBC/WTOV-TV 9, June 19 2006.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets More Than 20 Arrests”, The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register, June 2 2008.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets Seven”, The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register, May 29 2009.
- “Six Nabbed in Center Wheeling Prostitution Sting”, The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register, June 12 2009.
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “A House That’s Not a Home Is Reminder of City’s Free-Wheeling Past”, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 25 1980.
- “Police, Sheriff Unveil Joint Operation Plan”, The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register, January 5 2010.
- “Prostitution on the Rise in Wheeling”, CBS/WTRF-TV 7, June 15 2012.
- http://www.theintelligencer.net/news/community/2017/08/eight-arrested-on-multiple-charges-in-wheeling/ (2017)
- https://wtov9.com/news/local/several-arrested-in-wheeling-for-prostitution-drugs (2017)