On February 3, 2023, Lancaster County detectives arrested two men for patronizing prostitutes after they responded to an online advertisement posted by the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office Human Trafficking Task Force. Shawn M. Stauffer, Jr., 25, and David R. Degezelle, 54, were arrested in a motel room after meeting an undercover detective on Lincoln Highway East in East Lampeter Township. Both men were charged with one count of patronizing prostitutes.
The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office Human Trafficking Task Force (HTTF) was launched on National Human Trafficking Day, January 11, last year. The task force aims to (1) successfully investigate and prosecute crimes of human trafficking; (2) ensure that all trafficking victims are identified and receive access to a comprehensive array of supportive services; and (3) to foster community awareness through education and outreach. Since its inception last year, the HTTF has conducted operations to target sex buyers which has led to more than 30 arrests. The CSE Institute commends the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office and Police Department for their efforts to reduce the sex trade. It is imperative that law enforcement officers utilize their resources with a purpose of ending commercial sexual exploitation and keeping communities safe. Thus, by targeting demand, they are also targeting the root cause of sexual exploitation.
The CSE Institute’s policy advocacy focuses on the Equality Model, which criminalizes the buying of sex to decrease demand, and thus decrease the number of victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The Equality Model consists of four key elements: (1) decriminalization of persons in prostitution, (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. 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 notes that hotels and motels are among the most common venues for sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. The CSE Institute urges the hospitality industry to stop turning a blind eye to this problem and develop tangible solutions. These solutions could include mandatory training for all employees to help them recognize the signs of sex trafficking and what to do if they suspect trafficking. 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 will continue to provide updates as this matter proceeds.
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.