Anchorage, AK

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Cameras
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
Letters
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Anchorage is a unified municipal consolidated city-borough and Alaska’s largest city with a population of approximately 294,000. It is located in the south-central part of the state, well below the Arctic Circle. Anchorage residents comprise more than a third of the state’s population. Anchorage has a long history of widespread prostitution. Prostitution and its harms date back to the gold rush in the 1800s, and in contemporary times are fueled, in part, by industries that are staffed predominantly by men (e.g., oilfield work, fisheries, construction, defense). Complaints from residents about local problems with prostitution and tips about trafficking have been fielded by police for decades.  Violence against those engaged in prostitution has been documented for just as long. Cases of prostituted women being murdered and mutilated have been documented in Anchorage. Additionally, the city has been the site of at least one serial killer who specifically targeted prostituted women. According to reports, the least 17 prostituted women were murdered.

Sex trafficking has also been well-documented in the city and in surrounding areas. For example, in April of 2021, an Anchorage man was convicted on five counts of sex trafficking of minors, three counts of production of child pornography, and two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The verdict came after a three-day federal bench trial. According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, in 2018, the 35-year-old man conspired with another individual to traffic two female minors, one 15-years-old and one 17-years-old. Both minors were runaways who stayed with the offender at his co-conspirator’s apartment. While at the apartment, an online advertisement was created to market the minors. The offender then assisted his co-conspirator in trafficking the victims; encouraging them to engage in sex acts for money, driving one of them to a “date” to be sexually exploited for money, and creating child sexual abuse material with one of the minors on two separate occasions.

Driven in part by community complaints, Anchorage police have engaged in a number of strategies to combat prostitution and sex trafficking. Anchorage police conduct periodic street-level and web-based reverse stings. For example, in 1997, 12 sex buyers were arrested in a street-level reverse sting operation after attempting to purchase sex from undercover female officers. Arrestees may have their identities publicized, be placed on geographic probation (SOAP order), or perform community service as a condition of a sentence for soliciting. By municipal ordinance, auto seizure can also occur after any first-time arrest. After a second arrest, police can start forfeiture proceedings on vehicles seized from sex buyers.

In January 2022, the Alaska State Troopers Special Crimes Investigation Unit (SCIU) conducted multiple “prostitution patron stings” in Fairbanks and Anchorage which resulted in charges against 22 men who attempted to solicit sex. Troopers posed as women soliciting sex for money and contacted the men when they arrived at various locations in each community. All 22 men contacted during the operation were charged with the Class B Misdemeanor of prostitution. Their identities were publicly disclosed. Alaska law prohibits payment for sexual conduct under AS 11.66.100(a)(2). In a press release about the operation, the Director of the Alaska State Troopers said,

Prostitution is not a victimless crime, and is often financially intertwined with sex trafficking, drug trafficking, violent crimes, and sexual assault. Your Alaska State Troopers are committed to investigating and working with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable anyone who victimizes Alaskans. The Alaska State Troopers are planning additional operations in the future to help reduce demand for these illicit services across the state.

Loss of employment is also a consequence of buying sex in the city. For example, in 2009, a 41-year-old Anchorage police officer was charged with four counts of first-degree sexual assault, six counts of second-degree sexual assault, four counts of criminal use of a computer, and six counts of official misconduct, after a local group that supports victims of sexual assault – Standing Together Against Rape – alleged that the officer had “forced a woman to perform oral sex during a drunken driving arrest.” Upon further investigation, a long history of sexual misconduct was uncovered. According to reports, police began investigating the officer first in 2001, after the police department had received a report alleging that “a woman performed oral sex on him in an apartment hallway.” After denials from the woman and the officer, the report was deemed unfounded. In 2003, a prostituted woman reportedly told police that she had been threatened with arrest unless she provided sexual favors – although no sex occurred. The department’s Internal Affairs Unit and the FBI launched a sting operation with an undercover agent posing as a prostituted woman. The officer admitted to about 20 sexual encounters.  He received a negative review and was transferred to patrol duty. The officer was placed in the public affairs office, becoming a police spokesman at times. According to the police department, “He was disciplined for having sex in that office, and the documents say a supervisor recommended sending him back to patrol duty.” Chief Mark Mew was reported to have later stated that [the officer] had been “punished severely.” As a result of his arrest and subsequent investigation, the former officer was suspended and then fired from the force in 2009. In April 2012, the former officer was sentenced to 87 years in federal prison after having been found guilty of sexually assaulting five women while on duty and in uniform. In addition, officials announced that the municipality was required to pay more than $5.5 million to [the offender’s] victims to settle their personal injury lawsuits.

Following his arrest, the International Association of Chiefs of Police conducted an audit of the Anchorage Police Department. The audit contained a 10-point plan titled “Mitigating Sexual Misconduct,” and suggested improved screening of recruits, better oversight of officers, more opportunities for the people they contact to report problems, the placement of surveillance cameras in police substations, and the installation of cameras that can record video inside police vehicles to capture the words and actions of both the officers and anyone inside.

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey and Interviews (2012)

Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Auto Seizure:

Sex Buyer Arrests, Loss of Employment, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Background on Sex Trafficking and Prostitution in Alaska:

Anchorage Prostitution Ordinance:

State Alaska
Type City
Population 292090
Location
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