Simple economic theory teaches us that supply and demand are linked. If you increase demand, the supply must increase in order to meet the demand, and the inverse is also true: if demand is lower, then supply is likely to drop as well. As such, local law enforcement agencies around the United States are targeting those purchasing commercial sex acts, targeting the “demand” for exploitation of individuals.
One such effort recently took place in Union County, Pennsylvania, where charges were filed against three men who had been arrested during an alleged “prostitution sting” earlier in 2018. According to The Daily Item, the action was taken in conjunction with the National “Johns” Suppression Initative, PA Alliance Against Trafficking in Humans: Route 15 Project, and other community agencies. Detective Jacob Brown-Schields of the Union County District Attorney’s Office reportedly arrested Yousaf Basir of Williamsport, Terry Crust of Jersey Shore, and Jeffrey Troutman of Northumberland. Their arrests reveal a saddening reality about demand: demand for commercial sex acts is not confined to a single age group. The men arrested ranged from age 30 to 65.
The arrest was allegedly conducted after the men responded to an online advertisement Detective Brown-Schields created by posing as an individual offering commercial sex. Over 25 individuals allegedly responded to the advertisement, revealing another reality: demand for commercial sex exists throughout the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The three men who were arrested reportedly arranged via text message to meet with a person they believed was an individual offering to perform commercial sex acts at a motel along Route 15, and negotiated the terms of the transaction via telephone. In reality, the person they spoke with was another undercover detective. Following their arrests, each defendant was charged with patronizing prostitutes (18 § 5902(e)),a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania.
Although Pennsylvania criminalizes both prostitution and patronizing prostitution, there is a major disparity in the number of arrests made for each crime, with the “supply”—exploited individuals—targeted much more frequently than the “demand”—individuals who exploit.
The CSE Institute applauds the efforts of Union County Law Enforcement and other agencies in working to combat trafficking by targeting demand. As advocates of theNordic Model for abolishing commercial sexual exploitation, we support criminalizing and targeting those who purchase sex rather than those being exploited. Commercial sexual exploitation is inherently violent and often carried out by coerced individuals who deserve services, not sentences. The CSE Institute hope efforts will continue in Pennsylvania to target demand and work towards a society that condemns the purchase of a human being.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.