Clay County, MO

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

Clay County is a county of approximately 256,000 residents in Northwestern Missouri and is part of the Kansas City, MO metropolitan area and contains several of the city’s suburbs. It is the fifth most-populous county in Missouri and its county seat is Liberty, MO. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the county for decades, generating complaints to police from residents and local businesses. Among the many crimes associated with commercial sex in the county have been child sex trafficking and targeted homicide against prostituted persons. For example, in 2013, a 27-year-old Kearney man was charged with two counts each of first-degree murder and abandonment of a corpse, and he later confessed to the murder of two women who he targeted for their involvement in the commercial sex industry. According to police, the offender was so dangerous that had he not been arrested in 2013, he would have continued to murder women until he was apprehended by law enforcement. In April 2013, the offender died by suicide in the Clay County Jail, according to a press release from the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.

To combat the demand for commercial sex activity, reverse sting operations have been conducted by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. As a result of these operations, the identities and images of arrested sex buyers are frequently released by law enforcement to local media outlets. The sheriff’s office has participated in at least two large collaborative reverse sting operations in several cities and counties in the Kansas City area, including in Clay County. For example, in 2003, a street-level and web-based reverse sting operation resulted in the arrest of over 100 individuals for prostitution-related charges. As a result of this operation, a Clay County Sheriff’s deputy was arrested and found guilty of patronizing prostitution (sex buying). He was suspended as a result of his arrest. Numerous police departments within Clay County participated in the investigation such as the Liberty Police Department and the North Kansas City Police Department. The identities of multiple arrested sex buyers were released by police to local media outlets. According to reports, this was the first operation of its kind to have occurred in the area.

In May 2022, the Clay County Sheriff’s Department participated in a web-based reverse sting operation targeting individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. The multi-jurisdiction operation was conducted across Missouri and Kansas. Operation Blue Ghost, resulted in the arrest of 32 individuals for child sex trafficking/exploitation and related charges.  Authorities with the Department of Homeland Security reported that 15 of those arrests came from a sting conducted in Missouri in the cities of Independence and Kansas City and the counties of Jackson, Platte, and Clay and in one county in Kansas, Bourbon County, KS. Multiple law enforcement agencies in the Wichita, KS area teamed up for Operation Blue Ghost, which netted 17 arrests for crimes including aggravated human trafficking, promoting the sale of sex, and purchasing sex acts. Authorities in the Kansas City area collaborated to arrest an additional 15 individuals. According to a release from the Midwest division of the DHS, partners in and around Independence, MO; Kansas City, MO; Clay County, MO; Platte County, MO; and in Bourbon County, KS, targeted adults willing to travel for the purpose of sexually exploiting a child in exchange for money. Of the 15 arrested in the Kansas City-area sting, authorities said crimes included intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, enticement of a minor, sex trafficking of a child, furnishing pornography to minors, sexual exploitation of a minor, promoting prostitution, aggravated human trafficking, sex trafficking, felony assault on a law enforcement officer, attempted statutory sodomy, and attempted second-degree statutory rape. However, we do not have data on how many of those arrests of sex buyers occurred in Clay County.

In December, 2022, three men faced charges after being arrested in a commercial sex sting conducted by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies placed online ads advertising sex. An undercover female deputy met with those who responded to the ads at a hotel, including the three male sex buyers. Deputies and other people involved in the sting also responded to online ads. When the prostituted persons arrived, they were offered services to help escape their situations. The Kearney Police Department and Homeland Security were also involved in the sting.

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Loss of Employment, Identity Disclosure:

Public Education:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area: 

Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:

State Missouri
Type County
Population 255518
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