Garden City is a city of about 11,000 residents in the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Area of southeast Georgia, along the Interstate 95 corridor. Prostitution and sex trafficking are known to occur in the community and throughout the county, and to produce serious consequences. Police and community members have identified as particularly problematic indoor prostitution and sex trafficking in hotels situated along the Interstate 95 corridor, and advertised on websites such as Backpage.com. An officer from the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department’s Tactical Reaction and Prevention Unit (one of the key partners for reverse stings that have been conducted in the city), said they have had many prostituted women in the area robbed and assaulted by johns. According to the SCMPD, about 10 percent of all street robberies in the department’s jurisdiction involved a customer robbing a prostituted woman, and in one precinct, half of all robberies involved prostitutes being mugged at hotels and motels.
Federal law enforcement, working in partnership with city and county officials in the greater Savannah metropolitan area, have also linked local commercial sex activity to regional and international sex trafficking circuits using Interstate 95, and interstate prostitution and sex trafficking rings based in Savannah. For example, in January 2013, a federal indictment charged 12 defendants for their roles in an alleged sex trafficking and prostitution ring based in Georgia whose operations stretched to Florida and the Carolinas. The federal charges followed a lengthy investigation called “Operation Dark Night,” which was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). In addition to a number of searches and arrests, federal authorities rescued 11 women alleged to have been forced into prostitution (trafficked).
Notably, the SCMPD’s responses to prostitution and sex trafficking in Garden City and the surrounding area include efforts to combat demand. For example, a two-day, web-based reverse sting was conducted in October 2013 that resulted in the arrest of 13 johns. The operation focused on prostitution services advertised on Backpage.com, that occur in hotels and motels along Interstate 95 from the Highway 204 exit in Savannah through exits in Pooler, Port Wentworth and Garden City.
For the operation, SCMPD officers posted a decoy advertisement soliciting sex, and arranged to meet the sex buyers who responded in hotels and motels in the four communities. The first day of the operation focused on the midtown area of Savannah and the second was directed toward hotels near Interstate 95 exits in Savannah, Pooler, Garden City and Port Wentworth. Police press releases and news reports did not state the number of john arrests that occurred in each of the separate cities. The names and ages of the arrested sex buyers were, however, released to news outlets. In their efforts, the SCMPD was assisted by several other law enforcement agencies, including: their own Savannah Area Regional Intelligence Center (SARIC), and Crime Suppression Units from the West Chatham and Southside Precincts; the Pooler, Garden City and Port Wentworth Police Departments; the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations.
- Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department
- Savannah Area Regional Intelligence Center (SARIC)
- Crime Suppression Units from West Chatham and Southside precincts
- Pooler Police Department
- Garden City Police Department
- Port Wentworth Police Department
- Georgia Bureau of Investigation
- Homeland Security Investigations (Department of Homeland Security)
- Web Stings and Shaming:
- Sex Trafficking in the Area: