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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.
- Chattanooga Police Department
- Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
- Department of Homeland Security
- Neighborhood groups
Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “7 Suspects Feel ‘Sting’ in Prostitution Roundup”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, February 1 1996.
- “Prostitution Sting Results in 13 Arrests”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, May 30 1997.
- “Police Arrest 5 Women, 9 Men in Prostitution Sting”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 25 1998.
- “Former Officer One of 14 People Snared in Sting”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 27 1998.
- “Police Sting Targets Prostitution”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, September 12 1998.
- “Prostitution Arrests”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, October 26 2002.
- “Prostitution Problems Never End, Officials Say”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, May 7 2006.
- “Two Busted in Covert Prostitution Sting”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, May 12 2006.
- “Prostitution Sting Results in 10 Arrests”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, May 1 2007.
- “Police Arrest 10 Men in Prostitution Sting”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, November 10 2007.
- “Signal Mountain Teacher Charged in Prostitution Sting”, ABC/WTVC-TV 9, July 19 2011.
- “Undercover Escort Sting Leads to 11 Arrests”, Nooga.com, July 19 2011.
- “Baylor Soccer Coach Weekley Resigns after He Is Caught in Prostitution Sting; 13 Others Charged”, Chattanoogan, November 21 2013.
- http://newschannel9.com/6-men-arrested-in-reverse-prostitution-sting-in-chattanooga (2018)
- http://www.timesfreepress.com/2018/may/10/chattanooga-police-arrest-6-men-prostitution-sting (2018)
- http://www.wrcbtv.com/story/six-arrests-made-in-east-lake-prostitution-sting (2018)
- http://www.chattanoogan.com/6-Arrested-In-East-Lake-In-Prostitution (2018)
- https://www.chattanoogan.com/2018/12/13/381499/Chattanooga-Police-Sergeant-Facing.aspx (2018)
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Police Sting Nets 24 on Prostitution Charges”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, January 29 2010.
- “15 Charged in Internet Prostitution Sting”, ABC/WTVC-TV 9, January 20 2012.
- “Chattanooga Police Arrest 15 in Prostitution Sting”, Chattanoogan, January 20 2012.
- “Suspended Moc Caught in Prostitution Investigation”, NBC/WRCB-TV 3, October 2 2014.
- “20 People Busted in Undercover Prostitution Sting in Chattanooga,” CBS/WDEF-TV 12, October 16 2015.
- https://www.wsoctv.com/bail-bond-owner-arrested-undercover-prostitution-sting/ (2020)
- https://wdef.com/2020/12/12/14-arrested-sex-trafficking-sting/ (2020)
- https://tbinewsroom.com/2021/11/17/human-trafficking-operation-results-in-a-dozen-arrests/ (2021)
Identity Disclosure, “Trick the Johns” Website:
- “Shame Is the Game in Fighting Prostitution”, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, March 16 2008.
- “VIDEO: Trick the Johns”, CBS/WDEF-TV 12, June 3 2009.
- “Prostitutes’ Patrons Can’t Hide Anymore”, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, October 14 2012.
- “Prostitution Sting Issues 20 ‘Dear John’ Letters”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, September 13 1998.
Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:
- “VIDEO: Trick the Johns”, CBS/WDEF-TV 12, June 3 2009.
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Sex Trafficking Study Cites Hamilton County”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, May 19 2011.
- “Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Sex Trafficking Survey Provokes Questions by Police”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, November 14 2011.
- “Chattanooga: Police Document First Sex Trafficking Case”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, January 23 2013.
- “Female Human Trafficker Sentenced; Defendant Ran an Interstate Prostitution Ring Involving a Juvenile”, U.S. States News Service, April 29 2013.
- “Troutman Gets 27-Month Federal Sentence in Traveling Prostitution Case”, Chattanoogan, August 19 2013.
- “How a 15-Year-Old Girl Was Allegedly Abducted into Prostitution,” Flint Journal, June 11 2015.
- “Georgia Man Arrested for Human Trafficking, Promoting Prostitution,” Chattanoogan, February 12 2016.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “5 Local Women Charged in Anti-Prostitute Sting”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, September 27 1995.
- “Police Raid 8 Homes in Probe of Escort-Service Prostitution”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, May 14 1998.
- “Police Raid Local Escort Services”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, February 6 1999.
- “Detectives Meet Goal in Escort Cases”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, September 13 1999.
- “Motel Padlocked as Hotbed of Prostitution”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, December 3 1999.
- “Oak Grove Residents Fighting Back”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, June 11 2000.
- “Group Calls for Crackdown on Prostitution”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, August 17 2001.
- “Police Monitor Escort Services”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, May 28 2006.
- “Massage Parlor Sting Nets Prostitution Arrest”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, June 22 2006.
- “Police Raid Massage Parlor, Charge 2 with Prostitution; Operation Would Have Led to Human Trafficking, Investigator Says”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, November 18 2006.
- “Eight Jailed on Charges of Prostitution”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, November 30 2006.
- “In Chattanooga, Main St. Is a Prostitution Strip”, NPR, August 22 2009.
- “Bill Eyes ‘Harbor’ for Sex Victims; Lawmakers Seek Shelters for Trafficking’s Young Prey”, Memphis Commercial Appeal, June 20 2011.
- “11 Charged in Web Prostitution Sting”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, July 19 2011.
- “Chattanooga Police Arrest Eight on Prostitution Charges”, Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 20 2012.
- https://thegroundtruthproject.org/in-the-chattanooga-a-ministry-for-women-in-prostitution/ (2020)
- https://www.wrcbtv.com/story/local-nonprofit-relaunches-strip-club-outreach (2021)
- https://www.timesfreepress.com/apr/08/inmate-rape/ (2022)
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.