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Elkhart is a city of approximately 53,000 residents, located just east of South Bend in Elkhart County, Indiana. Elkhart County is part of the Elkhart-Goshen Metropolitan Statistical Area, which in turn is part of the South Bend-Elkhart-Mishawaka Combined Statistical Area. Prostitution activity has been well-documented within the county, including the city of Elkhart. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Armed robbery of sex buyers and the sex trafficking of women with disabilities have also been documented locally. For example, in September, 2016, a man who was with a prostituted woman was robbed. A gun was held to the man’s head while two accomplices looted the home, taking a car, two televisions, a video game console, and an undisclosed amount of cash. Nine months later, police were still looking for the woman who was allegedly at the center of a string of robberies involving victims who were held up at gunpoint after meeting for paid sex through the classifieds website Backpage.com. The woman was linked to at least eight similar cases in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties, and across the Michigan state line in Berrien County. Each of the victims reported arranging meetings with the suspect through Backpage before being robbed by male accomplices.
In January, 2019, a local woman was accused of exploiting another woman is prostitution. She was charged with two Level 5 felony counts of promoting prostitution stemming from a human trafficking sting by the Indiana State Police and Elkhart County’s Intelligence and Covert Enforcement Unit. A detective had arranged through an online ad to meet a woman at the a motel in Elkhart in March 2018. One woman went into a room where the detective was waiting, offered sex for money and was then taken into custody. The pimp was in a car outside and was also taken into custody. Police interviewed the prostituted woman and learned she had a learning disability and was diagnosed with the maturity of a 10-year-old child, the affidavit showed. The charges against the trafficker were filed in Elkhart County Superior Court.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and their related crimes, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. For example, the Elkhart Police Department has been conducting street-level reverse stings since 2005. While reverse stings are conducted routinely, major efforts are executed approximately four times per year. Publicizing the identities of those arrested has occurred in the local media, as well as being posting on the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office’s website. The Elkhart Police Department has also posted videos of their reverse sting operations. Those arrested are often sentenced to some sort of geographical restriction. The community of Elkhart is very active in voicing their concerns, so neighborhood watch and public education programs are also in effect.
- Elkhart Police Department
- Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office
National Assessment Survey
- “Elkhart: Six Arrested During Prostitution Sting”, Elkhart Truth, October 31 2007.
- “Elkhart Police Arrest 10 in Undercover Prostitution Sting”, South Bend Tribune, June 19 2008.
- “12 Arrested After Elkhart Prostitution Sting”, South Bend Tribune, July 3 2008.
- “Police Cracking Down on Prostitution in Elkhart”, South Bend Tribune, July 23 2008.
- “Police Arrest 4 in Elkhart Prostitution Sting”, South Bend Tribune, May 5 2009.
- https://www.goshennews.com/news/three-arrested-in-elkhart-prostitution-sting/ (2010)
- “Project 365 Prostitution Sting”, Elkhart Truth, October 1 2010.
- “Six Arrested in Prostitution Sting as Part of Elkhart Police’s Project 365”, Elkhart Truth, November 13 2010.
- “Elkhart Police Prostitution Sting Nets 12 Arrests”, Elkhart Truth, September 15 2011.
- https://www.abc57.com/news/three-men-from-elkhart-prostitution-bust-plead-guilty (2011)
- “10 Arrested in Elkhart Prostitution Sting”, WISH-TV 8, January 17 2012.
- https://www.officer.com/indiana-prostitution-police-sting-goes-public (2012)
- “Elkhart Fighting Age-Old Crime; Putting Prostitution Suspects’ Photos, Names on Web Site Is One Way”, South Bend Tribune, August 18 2007.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 10, But Will It Reduce Crime?”, South Bend Tribune, January 17 2012.
- “Elkhart Deals with Growing Prostitution Problem”, South Bend Tribune, August 16 2007.
- “Eight More Arrested During Prostitution Sting”, Elkhart Truth, August 29 2007.
Background on Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Related Crimes (robbery, trafficking persons with disabilities) in the Area:
- “Elkhart Sex Sting Nets Teen Runaway”, South Bend Tribune, November 3 2007.
- “Elkhart Neighbors Speak About Prostitution Problem”, South Bend Tribune, June 15 2008.
- “Project 365 Aims to Fix Up Troubled Elkhart Neighborhood”, Elkhart Truth, September 22 2010.
- “Editorial: Why Not Try to Repeat Project 365 Success?”, Elkhart Truth, April 8 2012.
- https://www.clermontsun.com/three-arrested-on-prostitution-charges-in-goshen (2012)
- https://www.southbendtribune.com/michiana-police-still-seeking-woman-at-center-of-sex-holdups (2016)
- https://www.goshennews.com/goshen-woman-arrested-on-prostitution-charges (2017)
- https://www.wndu.com/content/news/Goshen-massage-parlor-owner-arrested-during-raid (2017)
- https://www.elkharttruth.com/news/mishawaka-woman-accused-of-pimping-2-others/disability (2019)