Etowah County, AL

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
Etowah County is located in northeastern Alabama. It has a population of about 103,000 residents and its county seat is Gadsden, AL. Street-level prostitution and indoor prostitution rings facilitated by internet advertising have occurred throughout the county. Sex trafficking has also been well documented within the county. For example, in 2021 a five-month investigation led to the arrest of a Southside man charged with 105 counts of second-degree promoting prostitution — the same charge he was convicted of in 2014. He was arrested after officers executed search warrants at two residences in Rainbow City and Southside. The investigation involved the FBI’s Violent Crime Task Force; Southside, Attalla, Glencoe, and Tuscaloosa police; the Etowah County District Attorney’s Office; and the State Probation Office.

To combat consumer-level demand for commercial sex that drives all prostitution and sex trafficking, the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office, often collaborating with the Gadsden Police Department, has conducted street-level reverse stings since at least 2010. In one such operation 11 male sex buyers were arrested. The sting, dubbed “Operation Stroll,” was conducted “to combat a widespread prostitution problem in Gadsden.” During the reverse sting, undercover female officers stood at locations known for prostitution and waited for men to approach them. The male sex buyers offered female officers between $1 and $20, averaging about $5 per solicitation. Some of the men offered illegal drugs in exchange for sex, and one man offered a bologna sandwich as barter. In August 2014, another reverse sting was conducted following complaints from local residents that “people walking to work in the area had been accosted by people asking for sex.” The operation, which employed undercover female officers as decoys, was conducted over a two-day period and resulted in the arrest of 10 male sex buyers. The men’s names were not released to the public. Police also attempted to be proactive by warning the community about the dangers of prostitution and asked citizens to contact the Special Projects team with information or questions.

In November 2014, the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office collaborated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Gadsden Police Department to conduct a web-based reverse sting. The team spent about eight hours at a Gadsden hotel during the sting, and sex sex buyers were arrested and charged with soliciting prostitution, a misdemeanor. It was one of a series of operations undertaken within the county that year against prostitution, using online and undercover operations. In September 2014, Oxford police conducted a similar investigation, resulting in 14 arrests, and Gadsden police provided assistance. In August 2015, Gadsden police arrested at least 10 men, all of whom were booked into the Etowah County Detention Center on charges of soliciting prostitution, a misdemeanor, on $1,000 bond.

Key Partners

  • Etowah County Sheriff’s Office
  • Etowah County District Attorney’s Office
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Gadsden Police Department
  • Rainbow City Police Department
  • Southside Police Department

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Alabama
Type County
Population 103162
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