Yuma is a city in the southwest corner of Arizona. It is the seat of Yuma County, and has a population of about 95,000. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity in the city and surrounding areas are well-documented. For example, in 2011 three women were arrested for allegedly running a prostitution ring out of a local massage parlor. Federal and local agents raided the business after receiving complaints about prostitution.
In 2014-2015, police departments across Arizona conducted multi-day undercover stings aimed at arresting potential customers of prostituted persons. The aim was not merely stopping prostitution, but also to prevent domestic minor sex trafficking. Over those two years, 35 officers from across Arizona had been sent to training conducted by the anti-trafficking group Shared Hope International. The training, paid for by grants from groups including the Hickey Family Foundation and Carstens Family Funds. One operation resulted in the arrests of seven men in Yavapai County, and similar stings targeting johns had taken place in Tempe, Scottsdale, Mesa, and Phoenix. Following the direction given at their D.C. training, departments create decoy online ads for prostitutes. The ads don’t explicitly advertise underage girls, but during follow-up calls, a female undercover detective will tell the potential buyer she is a minor. Customers who go through with the deal are arrested. One online ad posted by undercover detectives described themselves as “newbies.” The ad used other language that law-enforcement officers believe are code words that let buyers know the women are underage. Over the phone, a detective said she and her friend were 15 and 16 and asked the man to buy them a pack of cigarettes because they were not old enough. The man arrived at the designated hotel with $200 and the cigarettes, was arrested, and faced two felony counts of child prostitution, one count for each undercover detective in the room.
In 2015, FBI agents and officials from several state and local law enforcement agencies conducted a state-wide a crackdown for prostitution and sex trafficking, resulting in more than 60 arrests as well as the recovery of several victims. Among those arrested were sex buyers, and the locations included Yuma. The FBI’s Phoenix announced that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies targeted specific sites multiple cities “from Phoenix to Yuma” as part of the agency’s annual Operation Cross Country enforcement action. Officers and agents focused on truck stops, casinos, streets and online escort services. They arrested 21 pimps and 41 johns, who faced state and federal charges. Police departments from around metropolitan Phoenix, Yuma and the Arizona Department of Public Safety took part in the sweep. The identities of the sex buyers were not disclosed to the public.
In September, 2019, a Yuma man was arrested on child sex charges. Yuma police said the 49-year-old suspect used drugs and money to entice a 17-year-old into having a sexual relationship with him. He now faces charges of luring a minor for sexual exploitation, and child sex trafficking. Police took the man into custody, with an appearance scheduled in Yuma Justice Court.
- Yuma Police Department
- Arizona Department of Public Safety
- FBI, Phoenix office
- Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office
- Shared Hope International
- Hickey Family Foundation
- Carstens Family Funds
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- http://www.azfamily.com/60-arrested-in-arizona-prostitution-sweep (2015)
- http://kjzz.org/content/35039/more-60-arrests-statewide-prostitution-sting (2015)
- https://www.kyma.com/news/84-children-recovered-120-arrests-made-following-fbi-human-trafficking-sting (2017)
- https://www.kyma.com/news/developing-yuma-man-arrested-for-child-sex-trafficking/1119687878 (2019)
Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Prostitution:
- https://newspaperarchive.com/yuma-sun-apr-22-2006-p-14/ (2006)
- https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/arizona-prostitution-sting-children-recovered-arrests (2014)
- https://www.azcentral.com/story/life/az-narratives/2015/01/24/sex-trafficking-prostitution-police-attitudes/22300101/ (2015)
- https://reason.com/blog/2015/10/15/fbi-sponsors-operation-cross-country-ix (2015)