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Colorado Springs is a city of approximately 484,000 residents, located south of Denver along Interstate 25 in El Paso County, CO. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented issues in the city. For example, between January 2014 and August 2014, researchers identified and recovered 25 underage victims of commercial sexual exploitation and 34 adult victims in Colorado Springs. Local cases of prostitution and sex trafficking-related child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often referred to in criminal codes as “child prostitution”) have also occurred. For example, in May 2018, a Colorado Springs man was sentenced to 10 years in prison after Homeland Security Investigations agents found 700,000 CSAM images including pictures depicting sadomasochistic sexual abuse of preteen children. Prior to his arrest in March 2017, HSI agents had been investigating a man and his wife, plus other co-conspirators in a human trafficking network. They were bringing Asian females to the U.S. and forcing them into prostitution. They charged the women $200 for transportation from Denver International Airport and then drove them to massage parlors where they were sex trafficked. During a search of the pair’s home they discovered a computer and external hard drives containing hundreds of thousands of files containing CSAM in folders called “hardcore childporn” and “kinderporn.” They were originally charged with multiple counts of trafficking adults in the sex trade. In a plea deal with the El Paso County District Attorney’s office, each of them pleaded guilty to one count of pimping and was sentenced to four years probation. Many of the CSAM images were produced in foreign countries. Investigators also found hundreds of pages of text stories describing abductions and rape of children. In one series of photographs a prepubescent girl was tied up.
In July 2020, a man a Colorado Springs man was arrested for human trafficking on charges of human trafficking, sexual assault, and false imprisonment. An arrest affidavit accused him of raping women and forcing them into prostitution over the prior seven months. Three female victims, including a teenage runaway, identified the man who held them against their will while forcing them to have sex with as many as a dozen different men per day. In addition to sex trafficking and related abuses, multiple cases of targeted homicide against prostituted people in the city have also been documented.
To curtail prostitution and sex trafficking activity in the city, as well as the wide range of additional felonies always surrounding prostitution markets, Colorado Springs police have conducted periodic street-level reverse stings since at least 1979, if not earlier. For example, in the summer of 1980, the Colorado Springs Police Department began targeting male sex buyers as form of reducing the demand for commercial sex in the city that resulted in the arrest of over 170 male sex buyers on charges of soliciting prostitution. In the early 1990s, the CSPD conducted a series of large-scale operations targeting sex buyers. The operations, which employed undercover female officers as decoys, resulted in the arrests of dozens of male sex buyers.
In July 1994, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that city law enforcement routinely faxed the names of all arrested sex buyers to the press, but their inclusion was at the discretion of local media outlets. It is unclear if the limited publication of arrestees’ names and identities continues to be largely a press choice. However, in the spring of 2015, Colorado Springs police announced they would begin posting the identities of arrested sex buyers to the department’s Facebook page. The identities of six sex buyers were posted to the site in early April 2015; another four convicted men’s identities and arrest photos were publicized in February 2016.
The CSPD has also diversified its efforts to include stings that target men attempting solicit sex online. In particular, officers have targeted men attempting to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. Web-based reverse sting operations have been conducted since at least 2002, if not earlier. Undercover officers have posed as both underage decoys and sex traffickers/pimps, advertising sex with a minor on websites known for prostitution and sex trafficking. As web solicitation often crosses city and county lines, the CSPD has frequently engaged the support of the Colorado Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The CSPD has similarly collaborated with the Task Force on several investigations into domestic minor sex trafficking in the area. For example, in 2021, the CSPD and the Colorado ICAC Task Force collaborated in the arrest of a local PE teacher who had allegedly attempted to solicit sex from a minor online. According to reports, during a web-based reverse sting operation by the Durango Police Department, officials identified a man suspected of soliciting sex from a minor online. Through the investigation, police learned that the offender lived in Colorado Springs. At that point, the Durango Police Department requested the help of the Colorado Springs ICAC Task Force to continue their investigation. Search and arrest warrants were then issued for the former PE teacher. Due to his arrest, the offender was placed on administrative leave at Monterey Elementary School.
In addition, the CSPD has conducted web-based reverse stings without the collaboration of the Colorado ICAC Task Force. For example, in October 2020, the CSPD conducted a web-based operation focused on apprehending individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money online that resulted in the arrest of eight men on charges of soliciting for child prostitution.
IT-based tactics have been incorporated into the multi-site demand reduction operations coordinated by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. Since 2011, the Cook County (IL) Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) has been coordinating periodic reverse sting operations occurring simultaneously in multiple cities throughout the United States. The collaborative effort was initially called the “National Day of John Arrests,” and then in 2015 was renamed National Johns Suppression Initiative (NJSI). The coalition of agencies that participate in these coordinated enforcement efforts grew from eight to more than 100. The 19 NJSI operations from 2011 through 2021 have involved the collaboration of over 140 law enforcement agencies, and have collectively produced the arrests of more than 10,000 sex buyers. Since August 2018, some of the NJSI operations have incorporated the use of decoy internet ads that connected to an AI bot, created by Childsafe.ai. The bot interacts with sex buyers to the point where it sends a deterrence message warning of the legal and social dangers of prostitution and sex trafficking.
Initially, the Cook County Sheriff’s Police and eight other agencies utilized the bot, including the principle police departments and sheriff’s offices in Boston, MA; Des Moines, WA; McHenry County, IL; New York, NY; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; Tarrant County, TX; and Upper Merion Township, PA. Across several subsequent NJSI operations, 18 cities and counties used the Childsafe.ai bots to combat demand.
The childsafe bot and other similar products can continuously scrape data or monitor “signal” from open source electronic communications, analyze the raw input, and flag messages as probably depicting a commercial sex offer or transaction. They also engage buyers in some form of interaction designed to deter individuals from attempting to purchase sex, at the present “point of purchase” moment as well as in the future. This approach seeks to disrupt (and ultimately collapse) commercial sex markets by reducing demand.
Employment Loss, Sex Buyer Arrests
Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred in the city. For example, in November 2006, an evangelical preacher and founder of a church in Colorado Springs resigned or was removed from his leadership positions at his church and national organizations after he admitted he had solicited a prostituted person for sex and methamphetamine. In November 2014, a top U.S. Air Force Academy official resigned after being arrested in a prostitution sting. He resigned his position as head of the academy athletic department’s fundraising arm (the Air Force Academy Athletic Corp, a nonprofit controlled by a board of directors that includes Air Force and civilian officials).
Some arrests of sex buyers are the result of investigating allegations of crimes against real victims, rather than from reverse stings using police decoys. For example, in June 2022, five people were charged in Colorado Springs after police received a tip that a 15-year-old girl was being sex trafficked. Police said the Metro Vice Unit received the tip in February 2022 and conducted multiple investigations to provide enough evidence to believe a teen girl was being trafficked. One of the arrested men was charged with Attempted Patronizing a Prostituted Child (Class 4 Felony), Sexual Exploitation of a Child (Class 5 Felony), and Soliciting for Prostitution.
Street-Level Reverse Stings:
- “Colorado police attack prostitution ‘industry'” (1979)
- “Police arrested 53 more persons over the weekend in a continuing crackdown on prostitution” (1980)
- “118th person arrested in ‘Operation St. John'” (1980)
- “Having made 170 arrests this summer” (1980)
- “Undercover Officer Intercepts `Johns’ on Prowl for Sex”, Colorado Springs Gazette, April 28 1990.
- “Back Issues”, Colorado Springs Gazette, May 31 1990.
- “Vice Squad No Cupid on Valentine’s Day”, Colorado Springs Gazette, February 15 1991.
- “Back Issues”, Colorado Springs Gazette, October 5 1992.
- “Back Issues”, Colorado Springs Gazette, January 21 1993.
- “John-Darmes Arrest 18 in Sex-Buy Sting”, Colorado Springs Gazette, May 1 1993.
- “Court Report Says Exec Sought Teen Prostitute”, Colorado Springs Gazette, September 23 1993.
- “Vice Officers’ Sex-for-Sale Sting Nets 23; `Johns’ Caught Looking for Love in Wrong Places”, Colorado Springs Gazette, November 20 1993.
- “Vice Crackdown Squeezes Rights”, Colorado Springs Gazette, August 8 1994.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 21 Arrests for Solicitation”, Colorado Springs Gazette, November 1 1994.
- “Briefing”, Colorado Springs Gazette, April 25 1995.
- “Prostitution Sting Produces 18 Arrests”, Colorado Springs Gazette, October 31 1995.
- “Sting Operation in Springs Leads to Arrests of 21 Men Suspected of Solicitation”, Colorado Springs Gazette, February 17 1996.
- “Briefing”, Colorado Springs Gazette, June 7 1996.
- “Briefing”, Colorado Spring Gazette, August 23 1996.
- “Briefing”, Colorado Springs Gazette, September 23 1997.
- “Men Arrested for Hiring Prostitutes Unlikely to Do It Again”, FOX News, December 21 2006.
- “Man Witnesses Major Prostitution Bust in Colorado Springs”, NBC/KOAA-TV 5, September 1 2012.
- “Police: Crackdown on Increased Prostitution Activity”, NBC/KOAA-TV 5, September 1 2012.
- “Colorado Springs Massage Parlors Busted in Sting Operation”, Colorado Springs Gazette, August 29 2014.
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://coloradosprings.gov/sites/default/files/2013_annual_report_-_for_posting.pdf (2013)
- https://www.kktv.com/8-arrested-in-child-prostitution-sting-all-booked-into-el-paso-county-jail (2020)
- https://krdo.com/8-men-arrested-during-child-prostitution-sting-in-colorado-springs (2020)
- https://oilcity.news/8-arrested-in-child-prostitution-sting-in-colorado-springs (2020)
- https://www.kktv.com/man-arrested-during-undercover-prostitution-sting (2021)
- https://gazette.com/man-arrested-in-colorado-springs-for-suspected-child-prostitution (2021)
- https://gazette.com/police-child-prostitution-sting-lands-six-in-el-paso-county-jail (2021)
- https://krdo.com/6-men-arrested-in-colorado-springs-for-soliciting-children-for-prostitution (2021)
- https://www.kktv.com/colorado-springs-police-new-charges-crimes-against-children (2021)
- “Aurora Serious about Sweeping Prostitution Off Colfax Avenue”, Colorado Springs Gazette, July 18 1994.
- “Littleton Man Arrested in Child Prostitution Sting”, Colorado Springs Gazette, May 11 2002.
- “Internet Sex Arrest”, CBS/KKTV-TV 11, March 29 2005.
- “CSPD Starts Releasing Mugshots of Johns,” NBC/KOAA-TV 5, April 6 2015.
- https://www.denverpost.com/2015/04/06/colorado-springs-police-start-john-shaming-in-sex-trafficking-battle (2015)
- “Colorado Springs Police Try Public Shaming to Fight Prostitution,” Colorado Springs Gazette, April 7 2015.
- “Colorado Springs Police Release Names of Four Men Convicted of Soliciting Prostitutes,” FOX/KXRM-TV 21, February 1 2016.
- “Colorado Springs Police Arrest More than 20 during Nationwide Human Trafficking Crack Down,” Colorado Springs Gazette, October 13 2015.
- https://gazette.com/news/colorado-springs-man-facing-charges-of-multiple-child-prostitution-felonies (2019)
- https://www.kktv.com/content/news/Man-arrested-facing-felony-child-prostitution-charges (2019)
Loss of Employment, Sex Buyer Arrest:
- https://www.denverpost.com/pastor-takes-leave-amid-allegations-of-gay-sex (2006)
- https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId (2007)
- https://amp.fdlreporter.com/amp (2014)
- https://gazette.com/afa-athletic-official-arrested-in-colorado-springs-prostitution-sting (2014)
- http://www.auxbeacon.org/air-force-academy-fund-raiser-arrested-in-prostitution-sting (2014)
- https://krdo.com/colorado-springs-elementary-school-pe-teacher-arrested-for-internet-sexual-exploitation-of-a-child (2021)
- https://www.thedenverchannel.com/elementary-school-pe-teacher-arrested-for-internet-sexual-exploitation-of-a-child (2021)
- https://www.kktv.com/disturbance-colorado-springs-hotel-leads-sex-trafficking-arrest (2022)
- https://gazette.com/2-women-rescued-from-sex-trafficking-pimping-in-north-colorado-springs-police (2022)
- https://www.dailyadvent.com/-Disturbance-in-a-Colorado-Springs-hotel-leads-to-sex-trafficking-pimping-arrest (2022)
- https://www.kktv.com/5-people-charged-colorado-springs-after-tip-15-year-old-girl-was-being-sex-trafficked (2022)
Local Sex Trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation, Related CSAM:
- “Clown Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Induce Child to Prostitution”, Colorado Springs Gazette, September 7 1988.
- “Professional Clown Gets Probation for Sex Crime”, Colorado Springs Gazette, February 18 1989.
- “Springs Man Found Guilty in Rape Case”, Colorado Springs Gazette, February 25 1989.
- “Topless-Bar Owner May Face More Charges; Minor Allegedly Used as Prostitute”, Colorado Springs Gazette, March 12 1989.
- “Rape Victim Attempting Prostitution, Police Say”, Colorado Springs Gazette, November 2 1990.
- “Sex Crime Convictions of Springs Man Upheld on Appeal; Kidnapping Charge Must Be Reduced, Judges Say”, Colorado Springs Gazette, March 15 1991.
- “Springs Kidnapping Conviction Upheld; Victim Was Grabbed on Busy Street”, Colorado Springs Gazette, October 20 1992.
- “Man Arrested on Suspicion of Sexually Assaulting a Child”, Colorado Springs Gazette, July 24 1999.
- “Suspected Molester Arrested Before”, Colorado Springs Gazette, July 24 1999.
- “Gifts Allegedly Traded for Sex; Police: Victims Given Pagers, Cash”, Colorado Springs Gazette, August 7 1999.
- “Man Charged with Assaulting Teen Girls”, Colorado Springs Gazette, October 27 2000.
- “Springs Man Pleads Guilty to Sexual Assault on Child, Exploitation”, Colorado Springs Gazette, March 7 2001.
- “Briefly Metro; Man Suspected of Sexual Assault”, Colorado Springs Gazette, May 25 2007.
- “Man Jailed in Possible Sex Assaults on Teens”, Colorado Springs Gazette, May 26 2007.
- “Briefly Metro; Man Arrested in Child-Sex Case”, Colorado Springs Gazette, October 11 2007.
- “Task Force: Human Trafficking Is Here”, ABC/KRDO-TV 13, May 10 2011.
- “Human and Child Trafficking on the Rise”, Our Colorado News, February 12 2012.
- “Children Sold for Sex on the Web”, ABC/KRDO-TV 13, November 12 2012.
- “Missing Model May Be Victim of Colorado Sex Traffickers: Authorities”, New York Daily News, November 26 2012.
- “Gang Members Indicted in Front Range, Springs Child Sex Ring”, Colorado Springs Gazette, December 10 2012.
- “CO Attorney General: Child Sex Trafficking a ‘Serious Problem'”, ABC/KRDO-TV 13, December 11 2012.
- “Colorado Springs Prostitution Sting Nets 10 Arrests”, FOX/KXRM-TV 21, June 24 2014.
- “Colorado Springs Police Arrest 10 during National Child Sex Trafficking, Prostitution Crackdown”, Colorado Springs Gazette, June 25 2014.
- “Colorado Springs Massage Parlors Busted in Sting Operation”, Colorado Springs Gazette, August 29 2014.
- “Affidavit: Customers Leaving Colorado Springs Massage Parlors Admitted Sex Was Offered”, Colorado Springs Gazette, November 1 2014.
- “3 Arrested in Human Trafficking, Child Prostitution Case,” FOX/KXRM-TV 21, April 3 2015.
- http://www.kktv.com/Human-trafficking-suspect-arrested-in-Springs (2018)
- http://gazette.com/colorado-springs-man-suspected-of-sex-trafficking-and-pimping-arrested (2018)
- https://www.denverpost.com/colorado-springs-child-pornography-sentencing (2018)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Prostitutes Get a Proposition from Springs; Stay Away to Keep Freedom”, Colorado Springs Gazette, June 1 1989.
- “Man Arrested in Prostitution Investigation”, Colorado Springs Gazette, October 6 1990.
- “City Takes Aim at Prostitution; New Sweeps Net Sex-Sale Suspects”, Colorado Springs Gazette, October 16 1991.
- “Citizens Demand Police Crackdown on Prostitution”, Colorado Springs Gazette, April 13 1993.
- “Police Arrest Alleged Prostitutes”, Colorado Springs Gazette, April 23 1997.
- “City Eyes Licensing Escorts `to Weed Out’ Illegitimate Services”, Colorado Springs Gazette, May 26 1999.
- “Briefing; Council Votes to License Escort Services”, Colorado Springs Gazette, June 23 1999.
- “Sex for Money Thrives Locally; Massage Parlors Often Not Licensed”, Colorado Springs Gazette, January 18 2004.
- “Sex Trade Moves from Streets to Net”, Colorado Springs Gazette, April 15 2007.
- “Metro Vice Prostitution Sting, Kyoto Served with Eviction”, NBC/KOAA-TV 5, January 14 2008.
- “City Sees Reduction in Drug and Sex Crime Arrests”, FOX/KXRM-TV 21, December 9 2008.
- “5 Arrested for Prostitution and Pimping Activities”, FOX/KXRM-TV 21, November 4 2009.
- “Prostitution Practically Legal in Pikes Peak Region”, ABC/KRDO-TV 13, May 4 2011.
- “Alleged Prostitution in No Man’s Land”, NBC/KOAA-TV 5, September 22 2012.
- https://www.kktv.com/olorado-springs-massage-parlor-owner-suspected-of-pimping-and-keeping-a-place-of-prostitution (2020)
- https://krdo.com/colorado-springs-massage-parlor-owner-arrested-for-prostitution-charges (2020)
- https://www.kktv.com/tactics-by-undercover-detective-bust-alleged-prostitution-scheme-colorado-springs-police-chief (2021)
- https://www.fox21news.com/owner-of-rose-spa-sentenced-in-prostitution-case (2022)
- https://www.fox21news.com/news/owner-of-massage-parlor-guilty-for-pimping-more-details-released (2022)
- https://gazette.com/colorado-springs-woman-accused-of-pimping-declines-plea-deal-pleads-not-guilty (2022)
- https://www.koaa.com/department-of-the-army-updates-its-off-limits-establishments-for-uniformed-fort-carson-personnel (2023)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Informants Link Suspect to Second Springs Slaying”, Colorado Springs Gazette, September 15 1988.
- “Woman Stabbed to Death”, Colorado Springs Gazette, September 15 1988.
- “Workers Find Woman’s Body near Colorado 115”, Colorado Springs Gazette, October 19 1988.
- “Two Dead Prostitutes Knew Same Drug Dealers, Police Say”, Colorado Springs Gazette, October 26 1988.
- “Woman Seriously Injured in Shooting; Victim Left for Dead on Springs Street”, Colorado Springs Gazette, January 12 1989.
- “Rape Victim Attempting Prostitution, Police Say”, Colorado Springs Gazette, November 2 1990.
- “Springs Man Arrested in 1988 Murder Case”, Colorado Springs Gazette, July 23 1997.
- “Fort Carson Soldier Arrested on Suspicion of Attempted Murder, Soliciting Prostitution,” Colorado Springs Gazette, December 19 2014.
- https://krdo.com/colorado-springs-human-trafficking-suspect-has-lengthy-criminal-history (2020)
Local Prostitution Ordinances: