Athens is a city of about 26,000 residents located along Interstate 65 in northern Alabama, north of Birmingham and near Huntsville. It is the county seat of Limestone County. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking.
For example, in April 2018, a prostitution ring that had been operating for several months was uncovered in Limestone County. One woman was charged with second-degree human trafficking and other charges. The woman had been arrested for possessing meth, and a search warrant for her cell phone exposed the prostitution ring. The ring involved at least fourteen prostituted persons, both men and women, according to investigators. The woman had recruited her “workers” and then set up parties at motels in the Athens area. At those sex parties, the prostituted persons that had been recruited were required to perform sex acts with sex buyers. The woman paid her workers with illegal drugs like meth, and pocketed the cash. She also arranged private liaisons in motel rooms between her “workers” and paying customers. Along with human trafficking, she was charged with possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and illegal possession of marijuana.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. The Athens Police Department has conducted several anti-prostitution operations, including reverse stings. In 2006, a street-level sting used two decoys and resulted in the arrest of 13 sex buyers, and another reversal that year resulted in 7 arrested sex buyers. Three areas the Athens police targeted during the investigation included U.S. 31, Washington Street and Hine Street. The vehicles of arrestees were seized and a payment of $160 was required to recover them. Once convicted, the men were also required to pay a $500 fine plus court fees. The names and ages of the arrested sex buyers were released to news outlets.
- “11 Charged in Prostitution Sting”, Athens News Courier, May 27 2006.
- “Two Charged with Prostitution”, Athens News Courier, June 9 2006.
- “Female Officers Walking Streets to Nail Johns”, Athens News Courier, July 1 2006.
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking: