Davidson County, TN

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

Davidson County is located in central Tennessee, with a population or about 704,000, making it the second most populous county in Tennessee. Its county seat is Nashville, the state capital and largest city. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified by numerous constituencies as a substantial problem in Nashville and surrounding areas. The history of prostitution in the area is described in a Smithsonian Magazine article from July 2013, focusing on the explosion of prostitution during Union Army stationing in the early 1860s. By 1864, the Army established the first system of legalized prostitution in the United States in order to control disease among soldiers. The system involved prostituted persons registration, health inspection, etc., similar to that still used in rural Nevada counties. No mention was made of attempting to address the role of the buyers. The legalized prostitution system was abandoned soon after the end of the Civil War.

In current times, the area is known by federal and state investigators to be on domestic sex trafficking circuits, and has had substantial sex trafficking and prostitution activity for decades. For example, federal prosecutors investigated a human trafficking and prostitution ring that had ties to several states, and operated in cities including Knoxville, MorristownJohnson City, and Louisville, KY. Contemporary local problems associated with prostitution include cases of sexually exploited women being specifically targeted for homicide. For example, in July 2019, a Nashville man was arrested and held on $100,000 bond after being accused of raping a woman and forcing her into prostitution by pressing a box cutter against her neck. He was charged with felony trafficking in commercial sex acts and was arrested while already behind bars in another case. A woman accused the defendant of raping her and forcing her into prostitution on four occasions, always keeping the payment for himself. In addition to threatening her with the box cutter, the woman also told police that the man had punched her in the chest, broken her hand and cheekbone, cracked her ribs, and dislocated her shoulder. In November 2021, Metro Police detectives executed an undercover operation that resulted in the arrests of four men after they agreed to provide women for prostitution and drove them to meet undercover detectives at a hotel near Rosa Parks Blvd. All four men faced felony charges of promoting prostitution and one faced additional charges of felon in possession of a handgun, cocaine possession, and gun possession during the commission of a felony.

Nashville has been a leader in efforts to combat demand for prostitution. The first reverse sting operation known to have been conducted in the United States occurred in Nashville in 1964. More recent examples include a large scale web-based reverse sting that resulted in 41 people being arrested during a three-day operation designed to combat human trafficking in Nashville. The operation, dubbed “Operation Someone Like Me,” was led by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation with help from other law enforcement agencies. Over three days, undercover agents posted ads on Backpage.com. A total of 485 men responded to those ads, in some of which undercover agents posed as a juvenile girl. Of the 41 arrested, 34 were men who authorities said were responding to ads in an effort to buy sex from a minor. Eighteen of those paid to sexually abuse an underage girl.

In June 2021, Nashville Metro Police arrested 17 men in a web-based reverse sting focusing on those attempting to purchase access to minors for sexual abuse. The men agreed to pay to rape a 16-year-old girl, who was really an undercover officer. The operation took place over two days and involved the Metro Nashville Police Department, TBI, and Homeland Security. All of the men traveled to a hotel in the Donelson area of Nashville near Donelson Pike and Royal Parkway in response to an internet ad. The arrests came after the men entered the room and exchanged money. Each man was charged with trafficking for a commercial sex act.

Not all arrests of sex buyers are the result of proactive sting operations, but are instead the results of police responses to incidents and investigations of offenses against real victims. For example, in February 2016, a police officer with the Fairview Police Department was arrested in Nashville on a prostitution solicitation charge on what was his first day on the job. The officer resigned from the police force later that same day. Officials with the Metro Nashville Police Department said the incident involving the officer happened at a hotel on Wallace Road. Police were  in the process of charging a woman in a prostitution investigation when she received a message from an ad she posted online. The message was from the Fairview officer, who showed up at the hotel allegedly intending to buy sex for $120. Both the woman and the officer were cited with misdemeanors. In April 2021, Metro police arrested a man accused of grabbing a woman at an Antioch gas station and offering her money to have sex with him. According to an arrest warrant from Metro police, the man was charged with sexual battery. The victim told officers she was at a gas station nearby when the man approached her. She stated he was trying to solicit her and offered her $100 to go home with him for the night. She informed the man that she was not in prostitution and would not go anywhere with him. He followed the victim around the parking lot and eventually grabbed her. The man was arrested and charged with sexual battery.

Key Partners

  • Nashville Police Department
  • Davidson County District Attorney’s Office
  • Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • Davidson County Sheriff’s Office
  • Behavioral Treatment Providers (John School, ending 2018)
  • SA Nashville (John School)
  • Nashville Public School District
  • Nashville Fire Department
  • Members of End Slavery Tennessee
  • Thistle Farms
  • Nashville Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure:

Identity Disclosure:

Loss of Employment:

Community Service:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Tennessee
Type County
Population 703953
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