Yuma County, AZ
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Yuma County is located in the southwest corner of Arizona, and has a population of over 206,000. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity in the county and surrounding areas have been well-documented for decades. This activity and its ancillary crimes have resulted in complaints to local law enforcement from residents and businesses. For example, in 2010, federal and local agents raided a local massage parlor after receiving complaints of suspected prostitution activity occurring at the business. As a result of the investigation, three women were arrested for allegedly running a prostitution ring out of a local massage parlor.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. From 2014 to 2015, police departments across Arizona, including the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office, collaborated to conduct multi-day undercover stings focused on disrupting the local commercial sex market by arresting sex buyers, in addition to combatting domestic child sex trafficking in the state. From 2013 to 2015, about 35 officers from across Arizona received training (paid for by grants from groups including the Hickey Family Foundation and Carstens Family Funds) on how to conduct reverse sting operations by the anti-trafficking group, Shared Hope International. One operation resulted in the arrests of seven men in Yavapai County, and similar stings targeting male sex buyers had taken place in Tempe, Scottsdale, Mesa, and Phoenix. Following the direction given at their D.C. training, departments posted decoy ads online posing as 15 and 16 year old girls and communicated with potential sex buyers. In one case, an undercover detective speaking with a potential sex buyer over the phone, 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 operation focused on combatting local 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 division 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 sex traffickers/pimps and 41 male sex buyers, 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 arrested sex buyers were not disclosed to the public.
In September, 2019, a Yuma man was arrested on child sex trafficking charges. According to Yuma police, the 49-year-old offender had offered a 17-year-old female drugs and money in exchange for commercial sex acts. He was arrested on numerous felony charges such as, luring a minor for sexual exploitation and child sex trafficking. Police took the man into custody, with an appearance scheduled in Yuma Justice Court. The sex trafficker’s identity and image were included in reports by local media outlets.
- Yuma County Sheriff’s Office
- 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, Identity Disclosure:
- http://www.azfamily.com/60-arrested-in-arizona-prostitution-sweep (2014)
- http://kjzz.org/content/more-60-arrests-statewide-prostitution-sting (2014)
- https://www.kyma.com/84-children-recovered-120-arrests-made-following-fbi-human-trafficking-sting (2017)
- https://www.ice.gov/ice-seeks-publics-help-identify-additional-victims-yuma-child-exploitation-case (2017)
- https://www.kyma.com/developing-yuma-man-arrested-for-child-sex-trafficking (2019)
- https://www.yumasun.com/yuma-man-arrested-for-allegedly-luring-minor (2019)
Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure:
Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Prostitution:
- https://newspaperarchive.com/yuma-sun-apr-22-2006-p-14/ (2006)
- https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/hot-links-prostitution-luke-air-force-base-and-chihuahuas (2010)
- https://www.argusleader.com/arizona-prostitution-sting-children-recovered-arrests (2014)
- https://www.azcentral.com/sex-trafficking-prostitution-police-attitudes (2015)
- https://reason.com/fbi-sponsors-operation-cross-country-ix (2015)
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