KTRK News reports that the assistant chief for Harris County Precinct 5 was 1 of 14 persons arrested and charged with solicitation of prostitution in a sex sting operation at an area hotel. The arrests were made by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
The news report indicates that Precinct 5 Constable Ted Heap has relieved the assistant chief of duty. “We hold our deputies to the highest standard,” Heap said. “His termination is effective immediately.”
The man formerly had been a homicide detective for the Houston Police Department.
The arrests were made Wednesday, September 22, when the organized crime unit of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance, performed an undercover sting operation.
Soliciting prostitution is now a felony in Texas
Under a new Texas prostitution law, buying or purchasing sex is a more severe crime with harsher punishments than before the new law took effect, which was on September 1, 2021.
Previously, soliciting prostitution had been a Class B misdemeanor, carrying punishments of up to 180 days in jail, a fine of as much as $2,000, and a possible order of 2 years of community supervision or probation.
For just over a year now, the same crime has been a state jail felony. A 1st conviction carries punishments of at least 180 days and up to 2 years in a state prison, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.
A 2nd conviction becomes a 3rd-degree felony (not as severe as a 1st- or 2nd-degree felony), with a sentence of 2 to 10 years in a state prison, along with a fine of up to $10,000.
Texas is believed to be the 1st state in America to enact a law that makes soliciting prostitution a felony crime. The change in laws was made largely to help combat human trafficking, or sex trafficking.
Sting operations sweep up many in broad nets
Such sting operations can sweep up many suspects of sex crimes in the broad nets cast by aggressive law enforcement authorities—yet not all such suspects may be guilty of the crime. Even so, sex sting arrests have become common in Texas, especially given the ease with which law officers can identify sex solicitation online.
Earlier this year, the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division arrested 35 suspects as part of several sting operations that targeted online solicitation of minors and prostitution.
The sting operations were designed to target and identify persons who were trying to exploit sex trafficking victims. Various websites were found to have allegedly been used by the suspects to solicit sex acts from minors (under 17 years old) in West Texas.
Also this year, in East Texas, 7 men were arrested in Gregg County, home of Longview, as part of a 2-day operation targeting solicitation of prostitution led by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Texas law enforcement often cites child trafficking concerns to justify aggressive sex sting operations. But how common is child trafficking, really?
Get a skilled sex crime defense lawyer
If you or a member of your family has been targeted by a sex sting operation and now faces an accusation or a charge of a sex crime, you must get an experienced, knowledgeable and skilled sex crime defense lawyer to stand up for your legal rights.