De Soto is a town of around 5,700 residents, situated roughly equidistant between Lawrence and Overland Park in Johnson County, Kansas. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of Johnson County. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office has conducted reverse stings in De Soto since at least 2010. In December 2010, JCSO deputies, in partnership with officers from the Shawnee, Merriam, Overland Park, and Prairie Village police departments, launched a web sting that netted the arrests of 29 johns in the communities of De Soto, Merriam and Shawnee. At the time, the Lawrence Journal-World reported that nine johns had been intercepted in De Soto, as well as two women charged with “promoting prostitution.” The individuals’ identities were not publicized.
Men arrested for buying sex in De Soto have – when eligible – attended the john school program in Kansas City, MO run by Veronica’s Voice. Between 2008 and 2014, Merriam sent 29 men to the Johnz School program.
In July, 2018, the Kansas Attorney General announced a new awareness campaign in Kansas is aimed at cutting the demand for prostitution as a way to fight human trafficking. The campaign involves state agencies and local advocacy groups teaming up to push the “Demand an End” initiative, which features education and announcements warning people that buyers of sex face charges. The campaign intends to promote a culture where buying sex is not acceptable. It is based on the assumption that the money from sex buyers fuels a marketplace that enables sex trafficking.
- Johnson County Sheriff’s Office
- Shawnee Police Department
- Merriam Police Department
- Prairie Village Police Department
- Overland Park Police Department
- Veronica’s Voice
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- “Johnson County Authorities Arrest 39 during 4-Day Prostitution Sting,” NBC/KSHB-TV 41, December 6 2010.
- “Prostitution Sting Nabs 29 Men, Eight Women in Johnson County,” Lawrence Journal-World, December 6 2010.
- “Update: Prostitution Sting Includes Arrests in De Soto,” De Soto Explorer, December 6 2010.