Harris County Sheriff’s Office Arrests 103 Alleged Sex Buyers in Prostitution Sting Operation

Harris County continues to lead the nation in sex buyer arrests for the second year in a row. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) announced that more than 100 alleged sex buyers (johns) were arrested in a month-long (January 7 – February 4, 2018) sting operation leading up to Super Bowl Weekend, as part of the 15th National Johns Suppression Initiative.

HCSO coordinated with the Cook County, Illinois Sheriff’s Office. Thirty-plus law enforcement agencies across the nation joined together to participate in the widely publicized initiative.

Prostitution charges are serious offenses in Texas.
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HCSO Sex Sting Operation in 2018

Houston is considered one of the top “sex capitals” in the United States. More than 600 alleged johns were arrested across the county:

  • Harris County’s 103 total arrests, all men, led the nation. For instance, Harris County made more arrests than the New York City Police Department.
  • HCSO also shared the alleged sex buyers’ mug shots with local and national news outlets. Those arrested come from all walks of life.

Remember: if you or someone you love is facing solicitation of prostitution charges, or related drug charges, you’re innocent until proven guilty. Contact an experienced Houston prostitution lawyer to protect your rights.

What is a Sex Sting Initiative?

Law enforcement agencies in greater Harris County sought to attract would-be sex buyers and thereby draw attention to the sex trafficking industry.
The Vice Unit of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office conducted the sex sting initiative with the assistance of nine hotel operators. Undercover female law enforcement agents placed ads offering sexual services. The undercover agents arranged to meet would-be buyers at one of these nine hotels.

Some of the alleged sex buyers face additional charges, including drug charges involving cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, and marijuana. One individual was arrested because he “attempted to impede” the sex sting operation before it began.

Rehabilitation instead of a criminal record for vulnerable sex workers

The goal of the sex sting operation was to arrest buyers in search of prostitutes and to draw necessary attention to the “exploitative nature” of prostitution. Ultimately, law enforcement seeks to lower the demand for prostitution services.

Project 180, a new program, offers the possibility of rehabilitation for the sex worker in lieu of a criminal record.

Why Does the Initiative Target Sex Buyers?

The Vice Unit believes that arresting johns who take advantage of sex workers is the best way to lessen the demand for sex services in greater Houston.

For that reason, law enforcement has shifted the focus from arresting prostitutes to those who seek to take advantage of them.

Prostitutes are considered among the community’s “most vulnerable” individuals.

The number of alleged johns arrested in Harris County continues to grow:

  • About 146 alleged sex buyers were arrested in 2014.
  • About 433 alleged sex buyers were arrested in 2017.

What Punishments Does a Convicted Sex Buyer Face in Texas?

If convicted, the solicitation of prostitution offender faces a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum 180-day jail sentence and up to $2,000 in fines.

Is Sex Addiction a Possible Defense?

According to a non-profit organization “Love People, Not Pixels,” (LPNP) seeking to rehabilitate sex buyers, about half of those arrested asked to meet with an LPNP volunteer. Some of those arrested said they “obsessively rely” on sex workers. About 30 men said they need help.

However, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is unlikely to offer pre-trial diversion to the arrested johns. The County wants higher jail times and probation in many cases.

Prostitution Charge Defense

Under Texas Penal Code Section 43.02, it’s considered illegal for a person to solicit a sex worker for the purpose of arranging sex for money. It’s also against the law for the prostitute to solicit sex in exchange for compensation.

As the latest HCSO sting operation shows, law enforcement professionals in Texas are highly trained in the identification of prostitution enterprises, massage services, or illegal bathhouses. Sting operations are created with the goal of identifying individuals who want to pay for sex:

  • In most cases, the individual selling sex services (the prostitute) faces a misdemeanor crime that’s punishable by fines, probation, and/or jail time.
  • The would-be buyer of sex for money (the john) faces a different charge in Texas. The laws of Texas distinguish the prostitute from the customer (john) or the prostitute’s manager (pimp).

If you’re facing a Harris County prostitution charge, contact an experienced Texas prostitution now. Contact The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp now at 713-868-6100. He will protect your reputation and legal rights.

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