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Birmingham is the second largest city in Alabama, with a population of approximately 200,000 residents. It is the largest city and county seat of Jefferson County, AL. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the city, surrounding communities, and in other areas of the county. This activity, and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Some of the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are child sex trafficking, prostituted women being targeted by serial killers, and male sex buyers being robbed and murdered.
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. For example, in 2022, a month-long human trafficking-related operation in Birmingham illustrated the wide range of crime associated with the local sex trade. The operation helped to recover seven missing children, identified and assisted multiple trafficking victims, and netted dozens of arrests leading up to The World Games. The sting produced the following results:
- 34 arrests of commercial sex buyers.
- Six arrests on human trafficking-related charges.
- Eight arrests of adult males for online enticement of a minor and traveling to meet a minor for sex.
- 15 (adult) sex trafficking victims identified and provided services.
- Four (minor) victims of labor trafficking identified and provided services.
- Two (minor) sex trafficking victims identified and provided services.
- 11 (minor) victims of online sexual exploitation and sextortion identified.
- Seven (adult) labor trafficking victims identified and provided services.
- Seven missing and endangered minors were located, recovered and provided services.
- Nine felony drug arrests.
- One arrest of a fugitive from Michigan on felony charges of impersonating a police officer.
- More than a dozen outstanding state and local arrest warrants served on people encountered, including one for attempted murder.
- Nine firearms seized.
- More than $30,000 in counterfeit goods seized.
- More than 20 search warrants executed.
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 male sex buyers. Web-based reverse stings using craigslist and backpage.com have been conducted. In 2007, a campaign to disclose the identities of arrested sex buyers was conducted, in which pictures of convicted prostituted people and sex buyers were broadcast on a local access cable channel. The Birmingham Police Department also teamed 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 announced that eight suspects had been charged after a BPD Vice Unit reverse sting. The suspects were identified in local news articles.
In March 2012 the Birmingham Police Department conducted an undercover sting operation to crack down on prostitution in the Woodlawn area of north Birmingham. Narcotics officers went undercover to get prostituted people and sex buyers 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. Charges included prostitution, solicitation, and a few suspects were picked up on felony charges. Police say they’ve received numerous complaints from citizens, and that they arrested more sex buyers than prostituted people.
In April 2012, a prostitution sting resulted in four arrests throughout the Birmingham area. The operation targeted prostituted people who were advertising their services on craigslist.com and backpage.com. Undercover officers arranged to meet them and made the arrests after they offered to engage in sex for money. Prostitution and solicitation are misdemeanors in state law. If convicted, someone 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 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 bust, 11 men were arrested, and the men’s identities were 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. In June-July, 2022, 34 sex buyers were arrested in a month-long operation in Birmingham that involved a web-based reverse sting.
- Birmingham Police Department
- Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force
Street-Level Reverse Stings (with Identity Disclosure 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/birmingham-police-arrest-several-suspects-in-prostitution-sting (2010)
- http://www.walb.com/police-arrest-35-in-prostitution-sting-in-woodlawn (2012)
- http://abc3340.com/2nd-prostitution-sting-in-birmingham-area (2012)
- http://www.wtvm.com/7-arrested-in-roebuck-area-prostitution-bust (2014)
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- https://www.wpxi.com/operation-games-stop-sting-nets-dozens-human-trafficking-related-arrests-during-world-games (2022)
- “‘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.
- “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/homewood-police-arrest-two-for-human-trafficking-prositution/ (2015)
- https://www.al.com/birmingham/ (2015)
- https://www.al.com/police_target_prostite (2016)
- http://www.enewscourier.com/wellhouse-director-speaks-about-human-trafficking (2018)
- https://www.shelbycountyreporter.com/scso-helps-with-human-trafficking-arrests-during-the-world-games/ (2022)
- https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/reality-birminghams-red-light-district (2022)
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/ (2012)
- http://www.live5news.com/tuscaloosa-police-make-more-prostitution-arrests-from-undercover-sting (2013)
- http://www.kplctv.com/bpd-arrests-1-for-human-trafficking-in-prostitution-bust (2014)
- http://www.wbrc.com/bpd-arrests-1-for-human-trafficking-in-prostitution-bust (2014)
- https://abc3340.com/reverse-prostitution-sting-results-in-nine-arrests (2018, Shelby County)
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