The City Attorney’s Office will soon review cases for charges of Sexual Exploitation arising from an operation by the Seattle Police Department’s Vice and High-Risk Victims Unit that targeted sex buyers on Aurora Avenue from June 24 through July 1. The operation was conducted in response to continued community complaints regarding heavy prostitution activity along the Aurora corridor and repeat reports of violent crimes, including rape, robbery and assault, committed by sex buyers against the women they prostitute.
One hundred thirty-nine adult males were arrested and booked into King County Jail for Sexual Exploitation, a misdemeanor. One juvenile male was arrested for Sexual Exploitation and Resisting Arrest and released to the custody of his father. Sexual Exploitation is the crime of paying or agreeing to pay for someone to engage in sexual conduct.
The men arrested included: a convicted child molester registered as a sex offender, currently on probation and in treatment; a formerly registered sex offender; a man with methamphetamine on his person, and a man who brought with him a firearm, knife and handcuffs.
SPD led a similar operation in 2016 in which 204 men were arrested for Sexual Exploitation. The City Attorney’s Office has reviewed those cases and is currently prosecuting them. One of the men arrested in the recent operation had been arrested in the 2016 operation.
This year’s operation in a storefront on North Aurora was just one of ongoing enforcement efforts targeting sexual exploitation. SPD Vice/High-Risk Victims Unit also regularly enforces prostitution laws to identify and recover juvenile and adult victims of commercial sexual exploitation, often partnering directly with service providers.
In 2012, the CAO officially recognized that prostitution is not a victimless crime. Sex buying causes harm. Not only do the pimps and traffickers cause the harm — the buyers cause harm.
“In the past, like most jurisdictions, Seattle law enforcement efforts were largely focused on prostituted women and girls – the true victims of prostitution,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said. “This was neither a just nor effective approach; prostitution and trafficking continued to grow in our area. We changed our policy to reverse the trend and reduce the crime of commercial sexual exploitation and related crimes in Seattle using a two-prong approach: reducing sexual exploitation through strong prosecution standards, and reducing prostitution by facilitating exit.”
CAO stopped offering dismissals for those properly charged with Sexual Exploitation and started requiring pleas. Prostituted people are typically connected to needed services to address the many barriers to exit the life. CAO partners with SPD, King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and non-governmental agencies to bring about this change.