Birmingham is the capitol of Alabama and the state’s largest city, with a population of about 1,125,000 residents. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well documented in the city, as are associated serious crimes. For example, there have been local cases of child sex trafficking, prostituted women being targeted by serial killers, and of johns being robbed and murdered. Police responses to commercial sex are often driven in part from complaints from businesses and residents in the community.
Birmingham police have conducted many prostitution sweeps throughout the years, capturing from a few to 130 men in reverse stings using undercover female police officers. The first known reverse sting in the city was conducted in 1987. Many of these operations have occurred in two areas of the city known to be frequented by prostituted women and johns. Web-based reverse stings using craigslist and backpage.com have been conducted. In 2007, a shaming campaign was conducted in which pictures of convicted prostituted persons and their customers are broadcast on a local access cable channel. The Birmingham Police Department also teams with local nonprofits such as WellHouse which provides programs and support for women involved in prostitution and human trafficking.
In April 2010, the Birmingham Police Department has announced that eight suspects have been charged after a BPD Vice Unit reverse sting in the 5000 block of 1st Avenue North on Thursday April 22, 2010. The suspects were identified in local news articles.
In March 2012 the Birmingham Police Department conducted an undercover sting operation this week to crack down on prostitution in the Woodlawn area of north Birmingham. Narcotics officers went undercover to get prostitutes and johns off the street. They focused on the area of 1st Avenue North between 41st Street and 80th Street. Over the three day sting, police arrested 35 people. Some of the charges include prostitution and a few suspects were picked up on felony charges. Police say they’ve received numerous complaints from citizens, and that they arrested more johns than prostitutes.
In April 2012, a prostitution sting resulted in four arrests throughout the Birmingham area. The operation targeted prostitutes who were advertising their services on craigslist.com and backpage.com. Undercover officers arranged to meet them and made the arrests for offering to engage in sex for money. Prostitution and solicitation are misdemeanors in state law. If convicted, these people can face up to one year in jail and pay a fine.
In 2014, Birmingham police arrested seven suspects on prostitution-related charges in a bust at the VIP Spa in Roebuck. Birmingham Vice and Narcotics officers served a search warrant at the VIP Spa Wednesday morning and found four women and three male customers inside. Birmingham police released the names and charges against the seven suspects arrested.
In 2018, several reverse stings were conducted in northern Shelby County along the U.S. 280 corridor, which crosses the county and leads directly into adjacent Jefferson County and the city of Birmingham. These “Operation Close Out” reverse stings occurred in September and October of 2018, carried out by the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force. In the first, 11 men were arrested, and the men’s identities included in news releases. In the October 2018 operation, nine men were arrested and charged with soliciting prostitution. The suspects were from Birmingham, Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Kentucky and Tennessee.
- Birmingham Police Department
- Street-Level Reverse Stings (with Shaming after 2007):
- “Police Arrest 138 in Sting Operation”, Gadsden Times, August 28 1987.
- “News Briefs; Metro; 20 Men Are Arrested on Charges of Soliciting”, Birmingham News, March 19 1994.
- “Attorney Says Baptist Preacher Entered His Plea to Avoid Trial”, Tuscaloosa News, August 6 1994.
- “Police Decoys Hit Street to Combat Prostitution”, Birmingham News, March 22 1998.
- “Crime; Birmingham; Police Target Prostitution”, Birmingham News, August 20 2009.
- “Thirteen Men Charged with Solicitation for Prostitution in Birmingham”, Birmingham News, October 7 2010.
- “Vice Operation Arrest”, Birmingham News, October 14 2010.
- “Undercover Prostitution Sting Leads to Arrest of 8 Men in Birmingham”, Birmingham News, November 2 2010.
- “Birmingham Hookers Go for $5 and Up, Police Say”, Birmingham News, November 8 2012.
- http://www.wbrc.com/story/12381903/birmingham-police-arrest-several-suspects-in-prostitution-sting (2010)
- http://www.walb.com/story/20043848/police-arrest-35-in-prostitution-sting-in-woodlawn (2012)
- http://abc3340.com/archive/2nd-prostitution-sting-in-birmingham-area (2012)
- http://www.wtvm.com/story/24768513/7-arrested-in-roebuck-area-prostitution-bust (2014)
- “‘Shame Campaign’ Pitched to Expose Prostitute Patrons”, Birmingham News, August 14 2007.
- “Birmingham Prostitutes, Clients Will Be Shamed on TV in Council’s Plan”, Birmingham News, October 2 2007.
- Neighborhood Action:
- “Car Tags Seen as Prostitute Solution”, Birmingham News, July 26 1995.
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “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.
- “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.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2016/07/homewood_police_target_prostit.html (2016)
- http://www.enewscourier.com/news/local_news/wellhouse-director-speaks-about-human-trafficking (2018)
- Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Confessed Serial Killer Charged in Birmingham Death”, Birmingham News, July 26 2007.
- “2 Charged with Capital Murder in ’07 Slaying”, Birmingham News, July 23 2009.
- “New Trial Set for Suspected Serial Killer Bruce Mendenhall”, Evansville Courier-Press, April 24 2012.
- “Birmingham’s Latest Murder Victim Killed while Looking for a Prostitute, Police Say”, Birmingham News, January 17 2013.
- “Birmingham Prostitute and Accomplice Sentenced in Georgia Man’s 2013 Shooting Death”, Birmingham News, June 12 2014.
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “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.
- “Birmingham Police Arrest Escort Service Employees”, Birmingham News, November 7 1993.
- “Residents Run Prostitutes Away”, Birmingham News, March 14 1996.
- “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.
- “Wellhouse Founder: Soliciting Sex Should Be a Felony, ‘Johns’ Should Be Registered Sex Offenders,” Birmingham News, June 11 2015.
- http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2012/11/post_821.html (2012)
- http://www.live5news.com/story/23686116/tuscaloosa-police-make-more-prostitution-arrests-from-undercover-sting (2013)
- http://www.kplctv.com/story/25862081/bpd-arrests-1-for-human-trafficking-in-prostitution-bust (2014)
- http://www.wbrc.com/story/25862081/bpd-arrests-1-for-human-trafficking-in-prostitution-bust (2014)
- https://abc3340.com/news/local/reverse-prostitution-sting-results-in-nine-arrests (2018, Shelby County)