Council Bluffs, IA

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

Council Bluffs is a city of roughly 62,000 residents, located on Iowa’s western border near Omaha, Nebraska. Complaints from residents about prostitution date back to the 1870s, when the city was a Western frontier town. More recently, the community has documented multiple cases of sex trafficking (of both adults and minors), and targeted sexual assaults and homicides of women selling sex.

In their efforts to reduce prostitution, the Council Bluffs Police Department has conducted both street-level and web-based reverse stings. Street-level operations targeting johns date back to at least 1987, when CBPD officers partnered with Omaha Police to conduct a reversal at an interstate truck stop known for commercial sex activity.

Law enforcement (including the CBPD and Southwest Iowa Narcotics Task Force) have conducted web-based reversals in Council Bluffs since at least early 2009, when six johns were netted after responding to a decoy online advertisement placed by the SINTW. In media reports of the operation, police and public officials reported that cameras and audio equipment were used to record the solicitations and gather evidence. The men’s names were publicized in local media outlets. It was also reported that at least one of the offenders had pled guilty and been sentenced to “one year of unsupervised probation and 30 hours of community service.”  Since that time, the community has served as the staging ground for over a dozen additional web-based reverse stings. The operations have netted anywhere from 5 to 15 sex buyers. All individuals arrested for prostitution-related offenses– including adult women selling sex — continue to have their identities publicized by local media outlets. In February 2019, at least five men from Council Bluffs, McClelland, Omaha and Bellevue were charged with solicitation of a prostitute during a web-based anti-sex trafficking operation by the Council Bluffs Police Department Vice Unit. One of the suspects from McClelland made contact with the officer through text messages and arranged a time to meet in Council Bluffs “for a date.”


Key Partners

  • Council Bluffs Police Department
  • Omaha Police Department
  • Southwest Iowa Narcotics Task Force
  • FBI Great Plains Innocence Lost Task Force

Key Sources

State Iowa
Type City
Population 62115
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