Dubuque County, 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

Dubuque County, Iowa has a population of just under 100,000, and its county seat is the city of Dubuque.  Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the communities and unincorporated areas of the 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 Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department has collaborated with local and regional agencies to address demand.  For example, reverse stings have been occurring in the city of Dubuque since at least 1983 in response to area business owners complaints that prostitution was hurting their businesses. The local commercial sex market has also supported documented cases of child prostitution, and at least one prostituted woman has been murdered in the city. The punishments imposed for men arrested in this city can range from fines and probation to a “two year prison term and/or a $5,000 fine.” Another consequence that arrested sex buyers may face is having their names offered by police to media outlets.  For example, in February, 2022 authorities reported arresting 11 men in Dubuque — including Dubuque County’s treasurer — as part of a two-day reverse sting “targeting human trafficking through prostitution.”  The identities of all 11 men were published in local news reports, with some news outlets posting photos as well as names and ages.

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred in the County.  In February, 2022, Dubuque County’s treasurer resigned two days after he was arrested in a prostitution sting. The County Auditor announced that he accepted the resignation of the County Treasurer. The Dubuque County Board of Supervisors would meet afterward to determine next steps. The sex buyer was one of the 11 men arrested on charges of prostitution during a two-day sting operation conducted by the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department, Dubuque Police Department and Iowa State Patrol.

Some sex buyer arrests are the result of investigations of crimes against real victims, rather than through reverse stings using police decoys.  For example, in 2020 a man was arrested and charged with soliciting prostitution after he engaged in transactional sex with her and she allegedly fled with his money.  He called police to report the robbery, and in doing so admitted to soliciting prostitution and was then arrested and charged. Police responded to the residence in rural Dubuque after a robbery was reported, and the “victim” reported that he agreed to meet a woman that he made contact with through an “adult services” website

Public education about demand has also occurred in Dubuque County.  For example, in January, 2023, the Tri-State Commission on Human Trafficking made presentations in the city that included content about the need to deter men from buying sex in order to curb sex trafficking in the area.

Key Partners

  • Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department
  • Dubuque Police Department
  • Dubuque Drug Task Force

Key Sources

Reverse Stings and Disclosure of Sex Buyer Identities:

Arrest of Sex Buyer:

Loss of Employment:

Web Based Reverse Sting:

Public Education:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Prostitution-Related Violence:

State Iowa
Type County
Population 98718
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