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Bessemer is a southwestern suburb of Birmingham in Jefferson County, AL, and has a population of roughly 27,000 residents. Instances of prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented in the city and surrounding areas. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking of adults and minors. For example, in October of 2020, two men – including one from Jefferson County – were arrested and charged with human trafficking after a law enforcement operation at a local hotel. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Vice and Narcotics Unit teamed up with other law enforcement agencies – including the Bessemer Police Department, FBI, Fultondale Police Department, Trussville Police Department, and Gardendale Police Department. One offender was charged with second-degree human trafficking, trafficking in stolen identities, and possession of a forged instrument. The second offender was charged with second-degree human trafficking, possession of a controlled substance, receiving stolen property, possession of marijuana, and certain persons forbidden to possess a firearm. Both of the arrested traffickers had their identities and images released by authorities. Additionally, 13 individuals were arrested on charges of prostitution. Authorities did not release their names, but all were booked into the Jefferson County Jail.
In effort to reduce instances of prostitution and sex trafficking, various demand reduction tactics have been deployed such as web-based reverse stings, identity disclosure, and sex buyer arrests. For example, in 1982, as a result of an anonymous tip to police, an investigation into a local church and the “bishop” was conducted. According to reports, a man who called himself the “bishop” had been using a church, St. Paul’s Spiritual Church, as a front for a brothel for a period of six months. In addition, the IRS had no record of an official listing for a church under that name and address. As a result of the undercover investigation, while an additional suspect was being questioned by officials, the “bishop” left the city to avoid arrest.
In response to a survey conducted in 2021 by the NCOSE team for a National Institute of Justice grant to update and expand Demand Forum (Grant #2020-75-CX-0011), representatives from the Bessemer Police Department reported that beginning in 2019, they have implemented public education specifically addressing demand, and community service for arrested sex buyers.
2021 National Assessment II Survey
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Region:
- “Magic City Making Big Drive on Vice”, Gadsden Times Daily, December 21 1953.
- “Birmingham Woman Convicted of Running House for Prostitution”, Tuscaloosa News, June 9 1954.
- “Massage Parlors Targeted”, Tuscaloosa News, March 5 1974.
- “Indictments Are Issued”, Gadsden Times Daily, February 9 1978.
- “Sold into Prostitution, Woman Leaps to Safety”, Gadsden Times, June 11 1980.
- “Crime Ring Traced out of Birmingham”, Tuscaloosa News, November 9 1980.
- “Man Draws 17 1/2 Years in Prison”, Gadsden Times, December 16 1983.
- “Louisiana Man Charged with Transporting Girls from Atlanta to Birmingham for Prostitution”, Birmingham News, March 15 2010.
- “Birmingham Massage Parlor Owner, Employee Indicted on Human Trafficking, Prostitution Charges”, Birmingham News, September 29 2010.
- “Birmingham Man Charged with Attempting to Lure 14-Year-Old into Prostitution”, Birmingham News, October 27 2010.
- “The WellHouse for Women Escaping Prostitution Hopes to Expand”, Birmingham News, February 22 2012.
- “Haven for Sex Trafficking Victims”, University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Kaleidoscope, March 6 2012.
- “2nd Prostitution Sting in Birmingham Area”, ABC/WBMA-TV 33, April 26 2012.
- “Two People Arrested for Trafficking Children for Sex in Birmingham”, CBS/WIAT-TV 42, July 29 2013.
- “BPD Conducts Search after Prostitution, Human Trafficking Complaints”, CBS/WIAT-TV 42, February 19 2014.
- “Some Massage Parlors a Haven for Human Trafficking”, CBS/WIAT-TV 42, February 26 2014.
- “Man Arrested over Weekend for Human Trafficking”, CBS/WIAT-TV 42, June 24 2014.
- “Forced Prostitution, Heroin Distribution Alleged in Shelby County Arrest”, Birmingham News, August 20 2014.
- “Atlanta Man Sentenced in Sex Trafficking Case”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 13 2014.
- https://www.cbs42.com/news/homewood-police-arrest-two-for-human-trafficking-prositution/ (2015)
- https://www.al.com/news/birmingham/ (2015)
- https://www.cbs42.com/sex-crimes-prostitution-a-growing-concern-in-jefferson-county/ (2015)
- https://www.al.com/homewood_police_target_prostit.html (2016)
- http://www.enewscourier.com/wellhouse-director-speaks-about-human-trafficking (2018)
- https://www.wvtm13.com/prostitution-sting-in-homewoodal-nets (2019)
- https://www.al.com/14-arrested-on-prostitution-charges-in-homewood-in-fbi-human-trafficking-operation.html (2019)
- https://www.al.com/human-trafficking-probe-lands-2-in-jeffco-jail-13-women-charged-prostitution (2020)
- https://www.cbs42.com/15-arrested-in-reverse-prostitution-sting-in-undercover-operation/ (2021)
- https://www.wbrc.com/arrested-reverse-prostitution-sting-shelby-county/ (2021)
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.al.com/child_predator_operations_land.html (2017)
- https://www.cullmantimes.com//state-task-force-investigation-nets-two-arrests-on-child-pornography-charges (2017)
Sex Buyer Arrests: