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Bloomington is a city of approximately 78,000 residents, located in McLean County in central Illinois. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of the McLean County. For at least 50 years, the city had a robust “red light district” before it was was shut down in 1953. Sex trade 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 ,some of which has involved child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in state criminal laws). For example, in January, 2020, a 28-year-old man was federally indicted on charges for trafficking women from a hotel in Bloomington. He was charged with one count of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion and one count of transporting individuals to engage in prostitution. In February, 2020, the Bloomington Police Department announced that three men were arrested and were indicted on federal charges of child sex trafficking and “child pornography.” In April, 2022, a man in a different case was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; transporting an individual to engage in prostitution; and obstruction of justice. The man met women on Facebook and forced them into prostitution, trafficking them out of a Bloomington hotel. He coerced two women, ages 23 and 26, into having sex with men for money in several states, according to the federal charges. When one of them refused to work for him, he choked her, smashed her head into a bathroom towel rack and then threw her against the toilet. At the time of his arrest in Bloomington, he was wanted by police in California and Indiana, and he has been accused of similar crimes in Ohio.
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 response to reports of suspected prostitution activity in and around the city’s rest areas, the Bloomington Police Department conducted a street-level reverse sting in November 1992. The operation, which employed two undercover female officers as decoys, resulted in the arrest of two truckers. In late 1999, the BPD conducted a web sting to identify and apprehend johns attempting to purchase sex with minors online. Officers posted a decoy listing advertising commercial sex with an underage female. One man responded to the listing, and offered an undercover officer $190 to bring the minor to a designated location. Once arrested, his name and other identifying information were released to the public.
In the fall of 2013, Bloomington again focused on prostitution and sex trafficking, using tactics designed to combat consumer-level demand. In December 2013, the Bloomington Police Departments’ Street Crimes Division arrested four male patrons of a prostitution ring operating out of a local hotel. The men were arrested on suspicion of solicitation of a sexual act and were held in McLean County jail. For first-time offenders, the crime is a misdemeanor, and a Class 4 felony for all subsequent offenses. While the identities of the men were released by police, some media outlets did not name the four suspects, stating that they would wait until formal charges were filed by the state’s attorney’s office. In a news release, the Bloomington Police Department said “it uses various websites and other investigative techniques to disrupt and deter prostitution activity in the city.”
- Bloomington Police Department
- McLean County Sheriffs Office
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- “Internet Prostitution Sting Nets Twin City Man”, Bloomington Pantagraph, May 29 1999.
- “Solicitation Allegedly Happened by E-mail”, Bloomington Pantagraph, April 3 2002.
- “Defendant Testifies at Internet Sex Trial”, Bloomington Pantagraph, April 6 2002.
- “Bloomington Man Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, NBC/WEEK-TV 25, November 14 2013.
- “Prostitution Sting; Solicitation Arrest”, Press Release, Bloomington Police Department, November 14 2013.
- “BPD Arrests 4 Men in Prostitution Sting”, Bloomington Pantagraph, December 31 2013.
- “Prostitution Sting; Four Males Arrested”, Press Release, Bloomington Police Department, December 31 2013.
Sex Trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation, Related CSAM in the Area:
- “Normal Teen Charged with Promoting Juvenile Prostitution”, CBS/WMBD-TV 31, September 20 2013.
- “Woman Charged with Promoting Juvenile Prostitution”, Press Release, Bloomington Police Department, September 20 2013.
- https://www.pantagraph.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/charged-in-prostitution-sting (2017)
- https://www.wandtv.com/news/sex-trafficking-in-central-illinois/ (2017)
- https://www.pantagraph.com/mclean-county-jail-mug-shots/ (2018)
- https://pantagraph.com/3-bloomington-normal-men-charged-in-federal-sex-trafficking-child-porn-case (2020)
- https://www.centralillinoisproud.com/three-men-arrested-on-child-sex-trafficking-child-pornography-charges/ (2020)
- https://www.kare11.com/article/news/crime/illinois-man-charged-with-trafficking-sex-workers-out-of-bloomington-hotel (2020)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/ (1900-1960)
- https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/prostitution-police-and-city-culture-small-midwestern-city-history (1990)
- “Prostitution Arrests Jump”, Bloomington Pantagraph, November 16 2003.