Does Scottsdale Have a Problem with Human Trafficking?

While we love our city and it has an incredible amount of things going for it, I don’t think we would necessarily call it perfect. No place is perfect, after all…close but not quite there. And we are not completely exempt from crime, but typically we associate Scottsdale crime with drunken Old Town hijinks. A new development shows that that’s not quite the case.

In a disturbing story, 158 were recently arrested in and around Scottsdale as a result of a human trafficking sting, with 37 of them charged with felonies. However, some of the more interesting details come from the nature of the arrests and how they came about.

Even though the details center around the term “human trafficking” and it was conducted by the Scottsdale Police Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit, it was actually a sting against “johns”: those who attempt to solicit prostitutes. No actual human traffickers nor actual prostitutes were involved, simply decoys. While the specifics aren’t provided, since child exploitation was amongst some of the charges, at least some and maybe most of the decoys were playing the part of minors.

We should start with the obvious: 158 people is a big number. Clearly there is a whole lot of demand for illicit services. And if a significant amount of the decoys were pretending to be underaged, it is undoubtedly a disturbing factor. There is a reasonable conversation to be had about legalizing and regulating prostitution and whether or not it is a better approach for everyone involved, but wherein minors are involved? Full stop.

One thing that is worth considering is that, like it or not, Scottsdale will likely be a place where the sins of the flesh are pursued. Most vacation destinations are to some degree, save ones that are strongly family-focused. Without knowing the percentage of “johns” who were actively pursuing the underaged, it’s difficult to tell how much of this problem is uniquely and unequivocally problematic, but an area where people will go to escape from the problems of everyday life is bound to be a haven for related pursuits.

Most of you probably agree that sexual traffickers should be eliminated from our society where possible. This move was obviously one to dissuade demand, presumably under the guise that if there is no demand, there will be no supply. Not necessarily unreasonable, but one has to wonder if resources could have been used more effectively to catch and prosecute actual traffickers. All reasonable people understand that they’re a more significant problem than the person trying to buy a sexual encounter, but perhaps the latter is lower hanging fruit to pick.

It’s almost the bodily version of law enforcement focusing on heavy-handed prosecution of street-level drug dealers without even trying to flip them in order to get to the high-level traffickers.

Especially considering that Scottsdale has an abundance of well-off people (both those who live here and those who visit) who want to have a good time, the pursuit of paid sex is probably unavoidable. Additionally, the pursuit of those who are there against their will or underaged should be quashed where possible. But it’s difficult to see this as progress towards solving a real problem, one that very likely exists in some capacity in the city and in its orbit.