Winter Haven is a city of approximately 27,000 residents, located in Polk County in central Florida. The city has well-documented problems with prostitution, as well as cases of prostitution rings involving minors (i.e., domestic minor sex trafficking). It is served by both the Winter Haven Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, which is headquartered in the city. In response to residents’ complaints of prostitution activity in the area, the PCSO has conducted several street-level reverse stings to identify and apprehend johns. One such operation, conducted in April 2012, resulted in the arrest of 21 men. As a warning to other would-be sex buyers, Sheriff’s officers released the names and photos of all arrested johns to the local media, adding that “[the PCSO] will not tolerate prostitution in Polk County… the negative social costs of prostitution hurt families, children and communities… detectives will continue to conduct these investigations — prostitution and solicitation for prostitution is a crime, you will be arrested and you will go to jail.”
For additional information about PCSO operations conducted outside of Winter Haven, please click HERE.
- Street-Level Reverse Stings with Shaming:
- “Winter Haven Prostitution Sting Nets Nine Arrests”, Lakeland Ledger, April 6 1992.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets Several Arrests, Including Motel Owners”, Press Release, Polk County Sheriff’s Office, September 20 2002.
- “Judd: ‘Those Who Solicit For Prostitution Should Take Note'”, Bright House/Bay News 9, April 7 2012.
- “Eight Men Arrested During Undercover Vice Operation in Winter Haven”, Lake Wales Daily Ridge, September 24 2014.
- “Polk Co. Prostitution Sting Nets Men Ages 22 to 86”, NBC/WFLA-TV 8, September 24 2014.
- Web-Based Reverse Stings with Shaming:
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Two Prostitution Solicitors Arrested”, Lakeland Ledger, December 9 1977.
- “Residents Attend Haven Town Meeting”, Lakeland Ledger, November 18 1986.
- “Sheriff Patrols Curtail Prostitution Near Junior High”, Lakeland Ledger, May 24 1988.
- “Crime Climbs in Haven”, Lakeland Ledger, February 26 1997.
- “Complaints Against Winter Haven Officers Confirmed”, Lakeland Ledger, September 6 2002.
- “Teens Accused of Posing as Officers”, Lakeland Ledger, October 9 2002.
- “Hookers, Pimps and Gang Members Arrested in Polk Prostitution Sting”, CBS/WTSP-TV 10, April 19 2011.
- “Former Winter Haven Police Officer Gets 5 Years in Prison for Prostitution Case”, Lakeland Ledger, October 17 2013.