On October 26, 2022, Mark Baffuto, 50, of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, was arrested after he was spotted leaving the Rodeway Inn. The Rodeway Inn is a motel that police had been investigating following reports of prostitution in the area of Route 13 and Green Lane. Upon surveillance, the police allegedly saw multiple men entering and leaving one room after staying between five and thirty minutes.
Police discovered the room in question was allegedly registered to a man and woman with a New Jersey phone number. The number was traced back to a website known for advertising individuals for sex. An undercover officer contacted the phone number and set up a meeting at the motel.
When the undercover officer arrived, they saw Baffuto exit the motel room. The undercover officer approached him and confirmed that sexual activity purportedly took place in the motel. Baffuto was subsequently charged with promoting prostitution and criminal use of a communication facility. He has since posted bail. The woman at the motel was also arrested and charged with a misdemeanor prostitution related offense.
Although the CSE Institute applauds the efforts of Bristol Township Police Department for arresting Baffuto, it is imperative law enforcement understands that persons in prostitution should not be arrested in an investigation to end the sex trade. Sexual exploitation is rooted in inequality, racism, and sexism. Buying sex and sexual exploitation are inherently linked, if there is a higher demand for sex there will be more sexual exploitation. Therefore, if law enforcement officers are utilizing their resources with a purpose of ending commercial sexual exploitation of all individuals, it is important they remember that by targeting demand, they are also targeting the root cause of sexual exploitation.
The CSE Institute supports the Equality Model to combat commercial sexual exploitation. Commercial sexual exploitation has decreased in countries where the Equality Model has been implemented. The Equality Model consists of four key elements: (1) decriminalization of the prostituted person, (2) criminalization of sex buyers and facilitators with a commitment to treating buying sex as a serious crime, (3) a public education campaign about the inherent harms of prostitution, and (4) funded, robust, holistic exit services for victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The Equality Model directly targets the demand for buying sex by criminalizing sex buyers and traffickers, while decriminalizing the people who are being bought and sold for commercial sex. Furthermore, the decriminalization of people in prostitution recognizes those who are bought and sold for sex as exploited, not as perpetrators of a crime.
The CSE Institute also urges the hotel and motel industry to stop turning a blind eye to the commercial sexual exploitation happening within their hotels. Instead, hotels and motels should become a leading force in stopping this exploitation altogether. The CSE Institute recognizes the need for legislation that would require these types of trainings, policies, and procedures to be implemented in every hotel and motel across the country.
The CSE Institute will continue to provide updates on this matter.
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 Villanova University.