Alachua County, FL

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Shaming
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Letters
Cameras
Web stings
License suspension

Alachua County is a county of approximately 250,000 residents, located in north central Florida. Gainesville is the county’s seat and largest city. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in that city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of Alachua County.  This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking.  For example, in 2012, an Alachua County accountant was accused of keeping three women trapped in his home as sex slaves for months.  He was arrested by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and faced multiple charges for human trafficking, sexual battery, prostitution and drug offenses.  In November 2017, a Gainesville woman was arrested by Alachua County Sheriff’s deputies and charged with human trafficking, interfering with the custody of a minor and forcing a minor into prostitution.  The case began when deputies responded to a missing juvenile report. During the investigation, evidence of human trafficking was observed.  A 16-year-old girl who had fled from a group home in St. Petersburg was found in a motel room with a 31-year-old man who had responded to an online advertisement for an $80 massage. Weeks after running away from a group home — needing food, money and shelter — she was introduced to the offender who initially offered the girl food, shelter and a way to make money through sex. Ads were placed on the Backpage website and the offender handled the arrangements, then kept the money the victim was owed and hid the victim’s her phone to keep her from contacting anyone.

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. In the late 1970s, pervasive prostitution and sex trafficking activity in and around area rest stops generated complaints to police, and led the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office to conduct a series of large-scale reverse stings along Interstate 75.  ACSO officers coordinated with members of the Florida Highway Patrol’s Rest Area Concentrated Enforcement Task Force (RACE). One initiative, conducted over the course of three months in 1988, resulted in the arrest of over 150 individuals on solicitation charges. The names and identities of arrested johns were at times publicized by local media outlets.

In 2003, Alachua County Sheriff’s deputies collaborated with members of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Marshal Service, Tallahassee Police Department and St. Johns and Leon County Sheriff’s Offices to establish the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. In October 2011, officers conducted a web sting across several jurisdictions targeting johns soliciting sex from minors online. The operation resulted in the arrest of 35 men, all of whose names and photos were released to the public. A similar investigation, conducted by ACSO officers in February 2012, netted an additional 21 men on solicitation charges.

In 2017, fifteen men were arrested during an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force operation, involving the Gainesville Police Department and Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. In “Operation Resilient,” multiple people communicated online with whom they believed to be either a child or a guardian that would allow sexual contact with a child. Of that group, fifteen men actually traveled to meet the online contacts with the intent of having sexual contact, which ultimately led to their arrest.

Key Sources

Reverse Stings:

Web Stings:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Florida
Type County
Population 243574
Location
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