One of the more disturbing aspects of commercial sex transactions encountered in our review of reverse sting operations is the presence of children. Among the communities that have conducted reverse stings, we found cases in more than 80 cities and counties in which infants or young children were present in vehicles or hotel rooms where men had arranged to buy sex, or were neglected by guardians who left them in order to engage in prostitution. In some cases, young children were left unattended in rooms with weapons and drugs while their guardians were involved in selling or buying sex.
For example, a bus driver in Detroit sought to buy sex from an undercover police woman while four special needs students from five to nine years of age sat behind him on the bus, and a registered sex offender in Norfolk, Connecticut tried to buy sex while carrying a two-year-old child in his vehicle. In Fort Bend County, Texas, a man arrived at local motel with his one-year-old son after soliciting an undercover officer over the Internet, seeking to have sex with an 8-year-old child. The man also wanted the officer to engage in sexual intercourse with his 1-year-old son. After the suspect was arrested, that child plus a 6-year-old sibling was rescued from the man’s home. Other examples of prostitution-related child endangerment include:
- December, 2012: The Albuquerque Police Department conducted a reverse sting resulting in the arrest of a man who was charged with felony child abuse for leaving three “very young children” in the parking lot in a cold car without jackets and without a heater, while he went to buy sex in the hotel.
- December 2012: A man was arrested in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for soliciting oral sex from an undercover police officer while his two-year-old daughter was in the car.
- January, 2013: A women brought her four-year-old child along while selling sex in a hotel room, with the “dates” arranged through Backpage ads.
- December 2013: In Baton Rouge, Louisiana an arrested sex buyer was also for child desertion for leaving a 1-year-old and 2-year-old in alone in a car in order to buy sex in a hotel room.
- September 2013: A woman in Covington, Louisiana left her three young children (1, 2, and 4 years of age) unattended in a hotel room while she went elsewhere to sell sex.
- October, 2013: A woman in Raleigh, North Carolina locked her children in their home, leaving them without the ability to escape if there were an emergency, then left to engage in prostitution.
- February, 2014: A woman left her 2- and 5-year-old children alone, sleeping on a couch with the apartment door unlocked, while she left the home for several hours to meet with a sex buyer.
- March, 2015: A women in McHenry County, Illinois brought sex buyers to her home, while it was occupied by her two young children.
- June, 2016: A woman brought her infant with her to a motel to meet with a sex buyer, and placed it on one bed while the commercial sex transaction occurred on the other bed.
- October, 2017: A woman brought an infant, one month old, with her to a meeting in Odessa, TX, that had been arranged on Backpage, and planned to leave the child in the car or take it with her to the hotel room while she engaged in commercial sex.
- October, 2017: Detectives in Greensburg, PA responded to an online prostitution ad, texted the number, and set up a meeting for $180 an hour, but with the stipulation that the visit had to take place in the house because the woman’s 3-year-old daughter was sleeping inside.
Another form of child involvement occurs when boys purchase sex from prostituted persons, or when it is purchased for them. For example, a 2011 case in Johnson City, Tennessee and a 2013 case in Jonesborough, Tennessee, both involved men arranging to buy sex from a prostituted woman for their 12-year-old sons. It is not unusual for reverse stings to result in the apprehension of 14 to 17-year-old boys attempting to buy sex.