Winter Haven, FL

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Winter Haven is a city of approximately 53,000 residents in Polk County in central Florida. The city has well-documented problems with prostitution, as well as cases of sex trafficking rings involving minors (i.e., domestic minor sex trafficking). A Winter Haven police officer was decertified for “Perjury, Prostitution, Sex on Duty.” It was served by 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 sex buyers. One such operation, conducted in April 2012, resulted in the arrest of 21 men. As a warning to others, the Sheriff’s Office has released the names and photos of arrested sex buyers 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 in the vicinity of Winter Haven, please click HERE.

Not all arrests of sex buyers are due to reverse stings using prostituting or trafficked decoys, but instead are the result of investigations into actual offenses against real victims. For example, in December 2012, a joint investigation between the Winter Haven Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office resulted in the arrest of a Winter Haven police officer. In September 2012, a confidential source approached a Winter Haven police officer and alleged that the officer was having sex with a prostituted woman while on duty. A criminal investigation was initiated the following day by the Winter Haven Police Department. The preliminary investigation led the Winter Haven Police Department to request assistance from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, and a three-month joint investigation was conducted. The investigation generated evidence leading to the officer’s arrest for “false imprisonment” and “purchase of services of a prostitute – first offense.” The officer confessed to detectives that he paid or agreed to pay prostituted women for sex while on duty during the prior year. One encounter resulted in the former officer being charged with false imprisonment. He had entered a residence to meet a prostituted woman but encountered a different woman and repeatedly attempted to solicit sex from her. The man stayed inside the residence for more than an hour and, at one point, grabbed her aggressively before eventually letting her go. The man resigned from the Winter Haven Police Department and was later decertified as a sworn officer.

Other instances of sex buyer employment loss have occurred in Winter Haven.  For example, in November, 2022, the president of Winter Haven Hospital resigned following his arrest on a charge of soliciting for prostitution. The man had been appointed to lead Winter Haven Hospital and Winter Haven Women’s Hospital. The BayCare Health System said in an announcement that the man’s resignation had been accepted. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department arrested the man earlier in November, 2022, and according to the arrest report, had approached an undercover officer on South Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando and offered to pay for a sex.

Key Partners

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Arrest of Sex Buyers, Identity Disclosure, Employment Loss:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Florida
Type City
Population 52710
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