Fourteen men were arrested on Wednesday as a result of a joint operation between the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security Investigations. The operation, dubbed “Summer Special,” aimed to combat prostitution and targeted individuals involved in the commercial sex industry. The fourteen individuals arrested and charged with solicitation or prostitution are described by law enforcement as “potential clients,” who wanted to pay for sexual acts. Among those involved was a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Durham County EMS worker.
This event closely resembles a recent Cumberland County operation. On August 3, 2019, Cumberland County deputies, the Fayetteville police, the State Bureau of Investigation, and the non-profit Five Sparrows conducted an undercover operation aimed at human trafficking and prostitution. Eleven individuals were arrested and charged in connection with that investigation.
In North Carolina, a first offense of Solicitation of Prostitution (N.C.G.S. 14-205.1) is a Class 1 misdemeanor, carrying a possible maximum sentence of 120 days in custody. However, a second or subsequent offense for Solicitation of Prostitution is a Class H felony, punishable by up to three years in custody. Certain factors involved in the event may trigger more severe penalties, including the ages of the victim and/or offender and the victim’s mental capacity. Similarly, the crime of Promoting Prostitution is a Class F felony, carrying an even lengthier sentence.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, North Carolina had 221 reported cases of human trafficking in 2017, making North Carolina 8th among all 50 states in terms of the number of reported human trafficking cases. In part, experts attribute North Carolina’s human trafficking concerns to “the major highways that run through our state (40, 85, and 95), a large, transient military population surrounded by sexually oriented businesses, numerous rural agricultural areas with a high demand for cheap labor, and an increasing number of gangs.” Human Trafficking, NC Department of Administration, https://ncadmin.nc.gov/advocacy/women/human-trafficking (last visited Aug. 15, 2019). Human trafficking, defined by coercion, deception, involuntary servitude, minor status, and sexual servitude, is considered a Class C felony when the victim is an adult, or a Class B2 felony if the offense involves a minor. See N.C.G.S. 14-43.11. Human trafficking is also a federal offense prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime involving the solicitation of prostitution or human trafficking, our attorneys are here for you. Dysart Willis Houchin & Hubbard can provide you with advice on the best steps to take to navigate your case.