Alton, IL

Tactics Used

Buyer Arrests
Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

Alton is a city of approximately 26,000 residents in southwestern Illinois’s Madison County, near Edwardsville and St. Louis. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been documented locally since at least the early 1990s. Cases of assaults on individuals selling sex and homicides of sex buyers have also been reported.

Among their efforts to reduce commercial sex sales and related crimes, the Alton Police Department (APD) has conducted reverse stings targeting individuals attempting to purchase sex. The APD has conducted such stings at street level since at least 2003, if not earlier. Officers and city officials have reported to local media that investigations have at times been launched in response to complaints from residents and businesses.

In 2007, APD officers conducted a web-based reversal, posting a decoy online advertisement on a website known for prostitution solicitation, and then placing a female undercover officer and support team in a local hotel to arrest sex buyers who responded to the listing and arranged to meet the decoy. Similarly, in January 2016, the APD intercepted seven johns after the men responded to a decoy web listing placed by law enforcement. Soon after their arrests, the offenders’ names, ages, hometowns, and arrest photos were released to the public and carried in the Alton Telegraph.

In addition to sharing the identities of arrested sex buyers with the press, Alton police also post their mugshots and arrest information on the department’s website. The city has also sent letters to the homes of registered car owners whose vehicles have been seen circling blocks and pulling over to speak with women known to be engaging in prostitution. The letters do not accuse the owners of committing a crime; they instead express concern for the vehicle driver’s safety, saying that the area has high rates of crime, such as prostitution and drug dealing.

Key Sources


State Illinois
Type City
Population 26640
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