DeSoto County is located on the northwest border of Mississippi, and has a population of around 175,000. Its county seat is the city of Hernando. DeSoto County is part of the Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metropolitan Statistical Area. Among its other notable communities is Southaven, a city of approximately 50,000 residents, situated in the southern suburbs of Memphis. Prostitution has been identified by police and others as generating a wide range of problems in the area, including johns responding to online ads being shot and robbed. Sex trafficking is also well-documented locally. For example, in 2017, police in Hernando charged a man with contributing to human trafficking after Memphis Police released a BOLO for him, in response to allegations that the victim was drugged and nearly forced into prostitution by the suspect. A teenage victim had sent pictures to her mother letting her know the suspect’s appearance and what kind of car he was driving. That description was sent out to agencies across the Mid-South, which led Hernando officers to make the arrest.
Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies in their strategy for prevention and response. The Southaven Police Department has conducted at least three web-based reverse stings using undercover officers, in an effort to reduce consumer-level demand. Arrested sex buyers have also had their identities reported in the media and often face fines. In November, 2017, a member of the Southaven Board of Alderman was arrested by the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office and booked into the county jail on charges related to procuring prostitution. He had communicated with a woman and promised her money in exchange for sex.
- Southaven Police Department
- DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office
Arrest of Sex Buyer, Shaming:
- https://www.commercialappeal.com/southaven-alderman-charged-hiring-prostitute (2017)
- https://www.ajc.com/news/mississippi-alderman-charged-with-procuring-prostitution (2017)
Web-Based Reverse Stings with Shaming:
- “Southaven Police Chief Hopes Prostitution Sting Sends Message”, NBC/WMC-TV 5, February 23 2011.
- “Southaven Prostitution Sting Nets 11 Arrests; Police Use Online Bait as Lure to Hotel”, Memphis Commercial Appeal, February 23 2011.
- “Internet Fuels Child Trafficking Crimes in the Mid-South”, ABC/WATN-TV 24, April 25 2012.
- “15 Arrested in Hotel Prostitution Sting”, NBC/WMC-TV 5, January 27 2014.
- “High School Coach, Teacher Arrested During Prostitution Sting”, NBC/WMC-TV 5, January 27 2014.
- “Southaven Police Arrest 15 in Prostitution Sting”, FOX/WHBQ-TV 13, January 27 2014.
- “Coach Caught in Prostitution Sting”, Desoto Times Tribune, January 28 2014.
- “Desoto Co. Teacher Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, NBC/WMC-TV 5, January 28 2014.
- “Teacher/Coach One of 15 Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, ABC/WBMA-TV 33, January 28 2014.
- “A Dozen People Arrested in Southaven Prostitution Sting”, FOX/WHBQ-TV 13, July 25 2014.
- “Prostitution Sting Results in 12 Arrests”, ABC/KAIT-TV 8, July 25 2014.
- https://wreg.com/sheriff-southaven-alderman-arrested-for-procuring-prostitution/ (2017)
Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Prostitution:
- http://www.desototimes.com/news/stripping-prostitution-fight-comes-to-desoto (2008)
- http://www.desototimes.com/news/prostitution-sting-operation-nets-arrests-in-southaven (2016)
- https://www.natchezdemocrat.com/natchez-man-charged-with-sex-trafficking-missing-teen/ (2017)
- https://www.wmcactionnews5.com/fbi-investigates-kidnapping-forced-prostitution-of-teen-girl/ (2017)
- https://www.desotocountyms.gov/AgendaCenter/ (2018)
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area: