Council Bluffs, IA

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

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.”

Not all sex buyer arrests are the result of proactive sting operations using fictional decoys, but instead are the product of investigations about real instances of prostitution and trafficking.  For example, in July 2021, a Council Bluffs restaurant owner was convicted of federal sex trafficking charges for paying to sexually abuse minors.  Over the prior 10 years, the offender had exchanged money, drugs and other material goods to minor girls in exchange for acts of sexual abuse at his house. He had also provided access for friends to sexually assault adult women using force and coercion. The 71-year-old man was found guilty of four counts of sex trafficking minors, two of sex trafficking adults and two counts of distributing a controlled substance to a person under 21 years of age. In December 2021, the man was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison followed by 10 years of supervised release. The investigation was conducted by the Council Bluffs Police Department with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Key Partners

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

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

  • “Sex Buyers Beware Bluffs Police Say Sting Gave Truckers Signal,” Omaha World-Herald, July 18 1987.

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure:

Community Service:


Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

  • “Prostitution Apparently Increasing at Bluffs Truck Stops,” Omaha World-Herald, September 15 1985.
  • “‘Vanilla Gorilla’ Uses CB Radio for Bluffs Truck-Stop Busts,” Omaha World-Herald, April 28 1986.
  • “Omahan Accused of Pimping in Bluffs,” Omaha World-Herald, October 29 1987.
  • “Admitted Prostitute Testifies Bluffs Judge to Determine If Woman Running Brothel,” Omaha World-Herald, January 16 1988.
  • “Judge Says Woman Guilty of Pimping,” Omaha World-Herald, January 26 1988.
  • “Judge Fines Woman $7,500 for Pimping,” Omaha World-Herald, March 16 1988.
  • “Prostitution Suspect Arrested,” Omaha World-Herald, April 3 1995.
  • “Two Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, June 22 2005.
  • “Escort Service Prostitutes Flourishing in Metro Area; This Discreet Form of Illicit Sex Is Thriving out of the Public’s Sight, Police Say,” Omaha World-Herald, January 8 2006.
  • “Pair Arrested for Drugs, Prostitution,” Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, October 4 2006.
  • “Woman Arrested for Prostitution,” Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, July 31 2007.
  • “Three Arrested in Prostitution Bust,” Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, August 15 2007.
  • “Two Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, December 15 2007.
  • “Sting Nets Three for Prostitution,” Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, September 11 2009.

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Iowa
Type City
Population 62355
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