Black Hawk County, IA

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Black Hawk County is located in northeastern Iowa, north of Cedar Rapids, and with a population of roughly 130,000 is Iowa’s fourth-most populous county. More than half of its population is in the city of Waterloo, which serves as the county’s government seat.  Black Hawk County is part of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA Metropolitan Statistical Area. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the communities and unincorporated areas of the county for over three decades. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses.  Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking. For example, in March 2018, plea agreements were made that gave a Waterloo couple 10-year prison sentences for sex trafficking teens. The husband and wife each pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking of children by force, fraud or coercion. Each admitted to knowingly recruiting, enticing or soliciting the girls, both 16 at the time, to engage in acts of commercial sexual abuse.  The couple also admitted to using a computer or internet to bring the girls to Iowa from Chicago for the purpose of trafficking sex for money. One of the trafficked girls also had a 1-year-old daughter, who came with them to Waterloo.

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. In an effort to reduce prostitution activity the Waterloo Police Department and collaborating agencies have conducted periodic street-level reverse stings since at least 1994. Some of these operations, including one occurring in 2020 that resulted in 11 arrests, are web-based reverse stings.  Police in Black Hawk County sometimes release arrestee names and other identifying information to the public.

Key Partners

  • Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office
  • Waterloo Police Department
  • U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids
  • Iowa State Patrol

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:

State Iowa
Type County
Population 130368
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