Billings, MT

Tactics Used

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

Billings is the largest city in Montana, with approximately 103,000 residents. Prostitution has been a persistent and visible problem in the area for decades. In an effort to identify and deter potential sex buyers, the Billings Police Department began conducting routine street-level reverse stings in the mid- to late-1980s. The strategy was largely successful, and was credited as a critical factor in the  revitalization of the city’s downtown area in the 1990s. More recently (2013), concern has been expressed about an increase in all kinds of crime, including prostitution, due to the Bakken oil boom.  In August, 2013, the Billings Police Department announced that 25 people had been arrested for soliciting prostitution from an undercover officer.  The operation was conducted by the City County Special Investigations Unit over a two week pwriod. The CCSIU is made up of Billings Police and Yellowstone County Sheriff’s deputies.

City officials and community members have noted an upsurge in web and storefront solicitation, suggesting some of Billings’ prostituted women (and their customers) may have moved their operations indoors and/or online. To address this shift in the market, Billings’ police have incorporated web-based reverse stings into their operations, and routinely release sex buyers’ names and photos to the media.

In November, 2017, a man responded to an ad placed during a prostitution sting conducted by the Montana Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation.  When he arrived at a Billings hotel and agreed to buy sex with a child, he was arrested.  He was later sentenced to five years in prison at the Montana Department of Corrections.  He was found to have previously violated probation on a sexual abuse of children conviction from October 2014: While out on bond on the 2014 case, the offender was caught in February 2015 in a prostitution sting in Bismarck, North Dakota.In July, 2018 a man charged, and a sex trafficking victim rescued, after an investigation into an online ad for sex in the Billings area. He pleaded not guilty in Yellowstone County District Court to a single count of prostitution, a felony.

Key Partners

  • Billings Police Department
  • Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office

Key Sources

State Montana
Type City
Population 101876
Location
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