Cleveland, Tennessee is the largest city in Bradley County and is located in the southeastern portion of the state. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in Cleveland and throughout the county. This 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 are sex trafficking, child endangerment, and violence committed against people involved in these transactions. The Bradley County Sheriff has noted that the contributing factor to human trafficking locally is the area’s location on Interstate 75, a stretch of road recognized by most law enforcement agencies as a main artery for smuggling illegal drugs, and transporting people for the purpose of sexual exploitation. In 2016, the Sheriff’s Office received intelligence suggesting human trafficking was coming back into the county, and created a special Streets Crime Unit to address the problem.
Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies in their strategy for prevention and response. Tennessee state laws make patronizing prostitution from a person younger than 18 a felony; restitution must be paid to victims, by defendants, for the offenses of patronizing prostitution, trafficking for commercial sex acts, solicitation of a minor for sexual purposes, and enlisting or paying a minor to engage in child pornography; promoting the prostitution of a child is a Class A or B (the most serious) felony.
To combat the array of problems stemming from commercial sex, the Cleveland Police Department and the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office have collaborated with other municipal police departments, as well as state and federal agencies, to conduct operations focusing on apprehending those seeking to buy sex. For example, in 2016 a concentrated effort on human trafficking by the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office (“Operation: Clean Sweep) netted 13 arrests of individuals in the sex and drugs trade — some from as far away as New York – six of whom were sex buyers. In January, 2017, the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office completed its second combined sting/reverse sting (“Operation: Temptation”) which resulted in 23 arrests, all dealing with prostitution, sex trafficking, and illicit drugs. Five vehicles were also seized during the operation.
- Cleveland Police Department
- Bradley County Sheriff’s Department
- Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI)
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Shaming, Vehicle Seizure:
- https://wdef.com/2017/01/11/operation-temptation-cracks-prostitution-bradley-county/ (2017)
- https://foxchattanooga.com/news/local/operation-temptation-leads-to-23-arrests-in-bradley-county (2017)
- https://newschannel9.com/tbi-4-men-arrested-in-bradley-county-charged-in-human-trafficking-investigation (2019)
- https://www.knoxnews.com/story/tennessee-men-charged-trafficking-crossville-sweetwater-prostitution/2057171001/ (2019)
- https://www.timesfreepress.com/2019/aug/19/four-men-charged-bradley-county-tennessee-hum (2019)
- https://www.wrcbtv.com/tbi-joint-operation-nets-four-human-trafficking-arrests-in-bradley-county (2019)
- https://www.wbir.com/two-east-tennesseans-two-others-arrested-after-human-trafficking-sting (2019)