Bristol, TN

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

Bristol is a city of about 25,000 residents located in northeastern Tennessee, in Sullivan County.  The city straddles the Southeastern border of Virginia, and is considered part of the “Tri-Cities” area comprised of Bristol, Johnson City, and Kingsport and surrounding smaller communities.  Prostitution activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of the county.  For example,in August, 2015, five women and a man were arrested in a prostitution sting in Sullivan County. The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office says their Special Operations Unit, along with agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, arrested the women in an online prostitution sting. Undercover officers responded to ads listed on in the escort category. The women told uncover officers that they would perform sex acts in exchange for money. The man was arrested after he admitted knowing that he was dropping off a woman for the purpose of prostitution.  This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses.

Bristol police conducted at least three prostitution stings in the summer of 2016, resulting in 16 prostitution arrests.  In September 2016, an additional 6 arrests occurred as the result of a web-based reverse sting using Craigslist.  Bristol police said prostitution was a growing problem, especially online, with people from out of town finding posts for sexual activity and then driving to Bristol to respond to the ad. Most of the cases come from the downtown area along State Street and adjoining avenues. Downtown business owners say activity is happening outside their doors, and generates numerous complaints to police.

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. Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and all three of the Tennessee Tri-Cities (as well as Bristol, Virginia) have conducted reverse stings.  Bristol routinely publicizes the identities of men arrested for soliciting prostitution. For example, in March, 2023, the Bristol Police Department, Tennessee Police Department (BTPD) and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), conducted a joint operation resulting in the arrested of 11 men who allegedly sought illicit sex from minors. On March 9, authorities reportedly placed several decoy advertisements on websites known to be linked to prostitution and commercial sex cases. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were publicly disclosed.

Key Partners

  • Bristol Police Department
  • Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office
State Tennessee
Type City
Population 27530
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