Scranton, Pa

Pittsburgh-Area Cop Sentenced in Prostitution Scandal

Posted: April 12, 2024

On March 13th, a former Pittsburgh police officer, Blake Thomas Babin, 60, of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, was sentenced in federal court, following a guilty plea to one count of illegally transporting a Venezuelan teenager from Colombia into the United States. Babin was sentenced to three years of probation and was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine, as well as complete 50 hours of community service.

According to court documents, Babin was a Bethel Park police lieutenant when he first traveled to Colombia. While there, Babin frequently visited establishments that offered sexual services to its patrons. During one of these visits, he met the victim in this case, who was being prostituted at a nightclub, and started a relationship with her shortly thereafter.

Between October and December of 2022, Babin provided funding to the victim for her transportation from Colombia into the United States. After two attempts, the victim was able to enter the U.S. through El Paso, Texas, where Babin was waiting to take her to Phoenix and then to Pittsburgh. Although her birthdate could not be confirmed, the victim crossed the border with identification that indicated she had recently turned 18, however, prosecutors believe that she was younger at the time that Babin met her.

During the investigation, text exchanges between Babin and the victim were obtained. It was revealed that Babin smuggled the victim into the U.S. to help him “keep his house” and because he claimed she enjoyed sex. After the charges were announced in May of 2023, Babin was placed on administrative leave with pay and retired about a week after he was arrested.

The CSE Institute is disappointed in Patch for focusing more on the immigration status of the victim and that she was in prostitution when Babin met her, rather than the fact that he had traveled to Colombia to purchase sex, more likely than not from a child. In doing so, the news outlet is promoting the harmful notion that having an irregular immigration status justifies the exploitation of prostituted persons. Immigrant women and girls often suffer high rates of poverty and abuse in countries with failed governments and conflict. These lived experiences make such women and girls especially vulnerable to exploitation once they enter the U.S.

In the present case, this vulnerability is exacerbated by the power imbalances created by Babin’s status as both a 60 year-old, white man and as a police officer traveling from the United States into Colombia for the purposes of buying sex, most likely from a child. At the CSE Institute, we have reported on lawyers, doctors, teachers, bosses, and law enforcement officers who have used their power, wealth, and status to buy sex and exploit others. Babin’s conviction highlights the ongoing issue that people in positions of power continue to exploit vulnerable populations.

Additionally, the CSE Institute is disappointed that the U.S. Attorney’s Office only charged Babin with illegally transporting the victim into the U.S. Instead, we urge law enforcement officials to look further into the nuances of this situation to determine if human trafficking charges are appropriate. Specifically, we urge the U.S. Attorney’s Office to further investigate and confirm the age of the victim.

While the facts support Babin’s transporting charge, we encourage law enforcement to use the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). Under this statute, the term, “severe forms of trafficking in persons” includes sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age. The exclusion of the requirement of “force, fraud, or coercion” to establish that a person under 18 is a victim of trafficking – or rather, the presumption of coercion – coincides with the principle that a child cannot legally consent to being bought or sold for sex. Moreover, this provision makes it clear that, under federal law, any child involved in a commercial sex act is a victim of child abuse.

Further, although the victim in this case was transported from Colombia into the U.S., it is important to note that there is a common misconception that human trafficking involves moving, traveling, or transporting a person across state or national borders. The reality is that human trafficking does not require such movement.

To combat human trafficking, law enforcement officials need to redirect their efforts to identify and support victims. By targeting those who traffic victims and those who buy sex, law enforcement officials can cause a decrease in demand for purchasing sex. When the demand for commercial sex is decreased, traffickers will no longer perpetuate harm to victims because there will be no demand to cater to, thus, decreasing the number of victims of sex trafficking.

The CSE Institute advocates for the adoption of the Equality Model in the United States. The Equality Model consists of four pillars: (1) decriminalizing those in prostitution, (2) criminalizing those who profit from or buy sex with a recognition that the demand for commercial sex is the root cause of sex trafficking, (3) creating a public awareness campaign about the inherent dangers of prostitution, and (4) establishing robust, well-funded 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. 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 will provide updates on this matter as they become available.

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.

Category: News

« Back to News
  • Learn More About The CSE Institute

    We welcome contact from organizations and individuals interested in more information about The CSE Institute and how to support it.

    Shea M. Rhodes, Esq.
    Tel: 610-519-7183

    Prof. Michelle M. Dempsey
    Faculty Advisor
    Tel: 610-519-8011

    Contact Us »