Athens, GA

Tactics Used

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

Athens is a city of approximately 124,000 residents, located 70 miles east of Atlanta in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-established problems in the area, exacerbated by the proximity to Atlanta, a key hub in domestic and international sex trafficking circuits in the U.S.

According to a supervisor within the Athens-Clarke County Police Department surveyed for the National Assessment, city police have engaged in a number of demand-reduction efforts: street-level and web-based reverse stings (beginning in 1991 and 2005, respectively), SOAP orders (1999), public education and awareness campaigns (1998), neighborhood action (1998), and the use of surveillance cameras to deter or identify sex buyers (2005).

In their efforts, the ACPD frequently collaborates with officers from the Oconee County and Barrow County Sheriffs’ Offices. One operation, conducted in late June 2012, saw law enforcement placing several decoy listings advertising sex on Backpage.com. Undercover female deputies were then “shared” between several county offices to arrange meetings with sex buyers who responded to the listings. Nine men from the city and surrounding towns were arrested; all of their names, ages, hometowns, and mugshots were released to the public.

In July 2019, nine men were arrested in an online child predator sting called “Operation End Game,” which targeted people suspected of communicating with children online and then traveling to meet them for sex. It is unclear whether any of the men arrested offered to purchase sex with a child, although the stated goal of the operation included targeting “those who are willing to exploit children by purchasing sex.” The operation was conducted over a three-day period by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, GBI’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, the FBI, the US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia, and the Athens-Clarke County District Attorney’s Office. Over the course of the operation, investigators had more than 200 exchanges with subjects on various social media platforms and dating websites. The nine men arrested were each charged with violating the Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007. Their names and identifiers were also released to the press. The Georgia ICAC Task Force has arrested more than 130 people in similar operations since 2014.

Other Sex Buyer Arrests:

In April 2020, an Athens man was arrested after firing a gun at a hotel when a prostituted woman did not provide the services he had paid for. Athens-Clarke County police responded to a call about a man with a gun and found the man still shooting his gun when they arrived at the hotel. He was arrested after trying to flee the scene in his car and was charged with reckless conduct and fleeing and attempting to elude a law enforcement officer. Further investigation revealed that the man had gone to the hotel to meet with a woman for prostitution and fired his gun when she refused services after payment was given.

Key Partners

  • Athens-Clarke County Police Department
  • Athens-Clarke County District Attorney’s Office
  • Oconee County Sheriff’s Office
  • Barrow County Sheriff’s Office
  • Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI)
    • GBI’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit
  • FBI
  • US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia
  • Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
    • Alpharetta Police Department
    • Clarke County Sheriff’s Office
    • Floyd County Police Department
    • Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office
    • The GBI-Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center (GISAC)
    • Gwinnett County Police Department
    • Hall County Sheriff’s Office
    • Lilburn Police Department
    • Polk County Police Department
    • Savannah Police Department

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey

Reverse Stings:

Web Stings:

Other Sex Buyer Arrests:

Neighborhood Action:

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:

State Georgia
Type City
Population 124719
Location
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