Chattanooga, TN

Tactics Used

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

Chattanooga is a city of approximately 170,000 residents, located in Hamilton County in southeastern Tennessee. Prostitution has been well-documented as a problem in the city for decades. There have also been many verified cases of other serious crimes driven by the commercial sex market, such as sex trafficking and the targeted assault and murder of women exploited in commercial sex.

To address these issues, the Chattanooga Police Department and local community members have used a number of tactics designed to reduce demand for prostitution.  The first street-level reverse sting known to have occurred in Chattanooga was conducted in 1985; CPD officers have been conducting web-based reversals since at least 2007.  Arrestees’ names are routinely released to the public, and have been publicized in local media outlets since the 1980s.  For example, in May 2018 Chattanooga police arrested six men during a street-level a reverse sting conducted at several addresses in the East lake area, and the identities of the men were included in news coverage.

In December, 2020, a web-based reverse sting was conducted that involved detectives posting decoy ads online that offered sex with a minor.  Fourteen men were arrested and charged with sex trafficking offenses, and their identities released to the pubic. Patronizing prostitution is a class A misdemeanor in Tennessee, and if convicted, the men could  face up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and/or fines up to $2,500. In November, a two-day undercover operation by special agents with the TBI Human Trafficking Unit, Chattanooga Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, and Tennessee Human Trafficking Task Force resulted in the arrest of 11 men accused of seeking illicit sex from minors, and one woman charged with promoting prostitution. Over a two-day period an undercover investigation was aimed at addressing human trafficking in the East Tennessee area, in which undercover officers placed several decoy advertisements on websites known to be linked to prostitution and commercial sex. The focus of the operation was to identify individuals seeking to engage in commercial sex acts with minors. As a result of the operation, agents and detectives arrested 11 men and one female, and booked them into the Hamilton County Jail.  Their identities were publicly disclosed.

Individuals arrested for buying sex have been required to perform community service. Surveillance cameras have also been used as a deterrent.  Neighborhood activists have targets sex buyers. In the early 2000s, a website called “Trick the Johns” was created by residents of a neighborhood in the Main Street area after they reported a spike in street prostitution in the area.  The website was active through at least 2008, but is no longer.

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the county. For example, in December, 2018, a Sergeant with the Chattanooga Police Department tendered his resignation. The CPD had opened an internal investigation after he was taken into custody for solicitation of prostitution. The arrest came during a joint enforcement operation between the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Chattanooga Police Department’s Vice Unit.

Key Partners

  • Chattanooga Police Department
  • Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Neighborhood groups

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Identity Disclosure, “Trick the Johns” Website:

Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:

Neighborhood Action:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

  • “Chattanooga Man Charged with Raping Prostitutes”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, July 20 2000.
  • “Trial Begins in 2002 Strangling Death of Prostitute”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 20 2006.
  • “Slaying, Rape Cases Heads to Jury”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 21 2006.
  • “Bigoms Acquitted of Rape, Murder but Remains in Jail”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 22 2006.
  • “Bigoms Found Guilty of Lesser Charge at Rape Trial”, Chattanoogan, May 2 2007.
  • “Prostitute Rape Case Moved to Criminal Court”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, October 30 2008.
State Tennessee
Type City
Population 169884
Location
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