Dubuque, 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 is a city of about 59,000 located along the Mississippi River on the northeast border of Iowa. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented and persistent problems in the city dating back at least to the 1970s. Among the efforts to combat them have been tactics intended to deter consumer level demand for commercial sex.  Reverse stings have been occurring in 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 as part of a two-day, web-based reverse sting “targeting human trafficking through prostitution.” Police said they posted ads on websites and apps known to have prostitution activity and when men responded to those ads, instead of hiring a prostitute, they were talking to an undercover officer. Once the officers got the men to agree to meet, they told them to go to a room at a hotel in Dubuque. Once there, officers would arrest them. The identities of all 11 men were published in local news reports, with some news outlets posting photos as well as names and ages.

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 a woman who then she allegedly robbed him and fled with his money.  He called police to report the robbery, and in doing so admitted to soliciting prostitution. Police responded to his residence in Dubuque after the robbery was reported, and the alleged victim admitted that he agreed to buy sex from a woman he met through an “adult services” website

Public education about demand has also occurred in Dubuque.  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 Police Department
  • Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office
  • Property owners in Dubuque
  • Tri-State Commission on Human Trafficking

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Disclosure of Sex Buyer Identities:

Web-Based Reverse Sting, Disclosure of Sex Buyer Identities:

Arrest of Sex Buyer, Identity Disclosure:

Public Education:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Local Prostitution-Related Violence:

State Iowa
Type City
Population 59119
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