Columbus, GA

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

Columbus is a city of approximately 200,000 residents, situated along the Alabama border in Muscogee County, Georgia. Fort Benning, a major military base with roughly 120,000 residents, lies on the city’s outskirts. Prostitution and sex trafficking cases in Columbus date back to the 1940s, if not earlier, and have generated numerous complaints to police  by residents and businesses, as well as many other crimes, such as kidnapping, assault, homicide, robbery, weapons and drug offenses, and the production of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM). In the late 1980s, the city drew national attention when a large-scale domestic minor sex trafficking operation, led by Pentecostal preachers, was reported to have lured boys from multiple states to a Columbus faith-based organization where they were forced into prostitution and trafficked “along the Southern revival circuit.” In early 2010, a Columbus man was similarly arrested after soliciting 14- and 15-year-old girls “who he met on a social networking site” and offering them money “to be his personal prostitutes.” Violence against prostituted women and girls, as well as sex buyers, has also been documented in the city. In mid-2013, for example, a man was sentenced to 40 years in prison for kidnapping, assault, and robbery after law enforcement discovered he had “repeatedly used women to lure men out of a Columbus bar” with the promise of commercial sex. Once the sex buyers arrived at his Ellerslie home, “the women would preoccupy the men behind closed doors while he searched [the mens’] cars and clothes for money. During the trial, at least one of the women involved in the scheme testified that she had been kidnapped, compelled to prostitute herself and choked with a plastic bag when she attempted to leave.In May, 2022, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes (CEACC) Unit, with the assistance of the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office, and the GBI Columbus field office, executed a residential search warrant pertaining to an ongoing investigation of sexual exploitation of children. The investigation involved a subject in Muscogee County possessing, manufacturing, and/or distributing explicit CSAM, commonly referred to as “child pornography.” As a result of the search warrant execution, an individual was arrested and charged with Sexual Exploitation of Children (Possession of Child Pornography), Sexual Exploitation of Children (Distribution of Child Pornography), Sexual Exploitation of Children (Production of Child Pornography), and Trafficking of a Person for Sexual Servitude.

The Columbus Police Department has taken steps to reduce prostitution in the city, including efforts that target consumer-level demand. The CPD has conducted street-level and web-based reverse stings to capture both prostituted women and johns, in response to complaints from the community.  These operations began in 1997, if not before.  The names and ages of arrested sex buyers, as well as the location of arrests, are released to the media and sometimes reported in the local news.

In November 2017, twenty-one people were arrested in a multi-jurisdictional operation focused on capturing sexual predators in the Columbus area who target children online. The suspects allegedly traveled to various areas with the intention of meeting children for sex. Their charges include sexual exploitation of children and trafficking person for labor or sexual servitude. “Operation Hidden Guardian” involved investigators posing as children online. They had more than 600 exchanges with people on various online platforms, including social media and chat rooms. Some of the suspects allegedly introduced obscene content, exposed themselves and requested child pornography. The Georgia ICAC Task Force is comprised of more than 200 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. The group has made 2,200 arrests since it launched in 2002, with 240 of those arrests occurring in 2016.

Key Partners

  • Columbus Police Department
  • Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office
  • District Attorney’s Office for the the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit
  • United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia
  • Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit
  • Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual, Related CSAM in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Georgia
Type City
Population 198413
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