Winchester, VA

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Shaming
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Letters
Cameras
Web stings
License suspension

Winchester is a city of approximately 26,000 residents, located along Virginia’s northwestern border about 25 miles south of Martinsburg, West Virginia.  It is the county seat of Frederick County, VA. Local law enforcement and residents have reported problems related to prostitution in the city, with activities often concentrated in and around adult-oriented businesses (such as massage parlors) and hotel prostitution arranged over the internet.  For example, in October, 2016 five women were arrested during a prostitution sting that included the cooperation of several regional law enforcement agencies.  The Winchester Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division had undercover officers arrange to meet the women at a local hotel via the internet and other electronic means.  The women were charged with solicitation of prostitution.

To address problems associated with prostitution, the Winchester Police Department has conducted at least two stings targeting sex buyers. In summer 2006, officers responded to citizens’ complaints about a spike in prostitution activity in the North Cameron Street area of the city and sent both male and female officers undercover as decoy johns and prostituted women. Six individuals, including three sex buyers, were arrested as a result. All had their names and arrest photos published by local media outlets.

In April 2014, WPD officers conducted a web-based reverse sting resulting in the arrest of 11 sex buyers. Following the investigation, a WPD spokeswoman reported that police had used “confidential informants and internet advertising in setting up the arrests,” and that “defendants [had] responded to the online advertising by appearing at an unidentified Winchester hotel. Police arrested them after they exchanged money for sex.” When asked about the impetus for the operation, the spokeswoman stated:

“The goal of these undercover investigations is to send a message to the public that we will not tolerate this illegal behavior in the city, and we will charge.”

In May, 2017 two individuals were arrested in Winchester on charges of solicitation during a series of undercover operations. Two male sex buyers had their identities included in news reports; one was arraigned for solicitation for prostitution, and the other was arraigned for use of an electronic device to solicit a minor and indecent liberties with a child.  Virginia agencies had been trained the prior day by the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office on undercover human trafficking operations, and the next day the group conducted multiple undercover operations in Winchester.  The operations were part of the hands-on training focused on enforcement of prostitution violations, including arresting offenders soliciting for sex acts, and the other focused on women who were agreeing to perform acts for money.

Key Partners

  • Winchester Police Department
  • Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office
  • Frederick County Sheriff’s Office
  • Strasburg Police Department
  • Henrico County Sheriff’s Office
  • FBI

Key Sources

State Virginia
Type City
Population 25733
Location
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