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Florissant is a city of approximately 51,500 residents in St. Louis County, MO. It is located within the Greater St. Louis area as a northern suburb of the city. Prostitution and sex trafficking have a longstanding history within the City of St. Louis and surrounding areas. In 1870, the City of St. Louis passed an ordinance legalizing prostitution, requiring brothels and women who were exploited within them, to register as prostituted people with the city. After four years, legalization was declared a failure as it was clear that most prostituted women had either failed to register and/or brothels failed to abide by regulations, resulting in a growth in the problems that the city had hoped to diminish and contain. Among the more serious problems associated with commercial sex in the area include sex trafficking. For example, in 1997 the Florissant Police Department amongst numerous other municipal police departments in St. Louis County initiated an investigation into what would be discovered to be an interstate sex trafficking operation run by a single “family”. As a result of police surveillance and investigations, police learned that the “family” had been kidnapping underage girls for purposes of prostitution and sex trafficked them through escort services, local motels, and/or illicit massage parlors in addition to giving them fake IDs. The sex trafficking operation began in Minneapolis in 1982 and operated for a total of 17 years, spanning across 24 states and international borders of Canada. By 1999, fifteen members of the “family” were accused of participating in the operation, and in April of 2000, twelve members of the “family” had been indicted on felony prostitution-related charges.
To combat prostitution and sex trafficking in the area, local law enforcement agencies have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex, which provides the revenue stream driving all commercial sex and trafficking. For example, since 1974, the St. Louis Police Department has been conducting reverse sting operations targeting individuals seeking to purchase commercial sex. As a result of these investigations, loss of employment is also a consequence of buying sex in the city of Florissant. For example, in October of 2014, a Florissant Councilman was arrested on a charge of patronizing a prostitute, after attempting to solicit sex from an undercover St. Louis police officer. Following his arrest, the sex buyer publicly apologized to the Florissant City Council, employees, and residents but stated his plans to remain in his position, “I will work as hard as I can to do the job I was voted in by these people to do.” The former council member forced to resign in 2019, after prior felony charges were brought to the city’s attention, as under city law, convicted felons cannot hold elective office. The offender’s identity was included in reports from local news sources.
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- Women on Vice Patrol Arrest 15 Men (1974)
- Officials Credit Teamwork Here for Cracking Ring pt. 1 (1999)
- Officials Credit Teamwork Here for Cracking Ring pt. 2 (1999)
- https://www.cbsnews.com/news/teen-prostitution-ring-busted/ (1999)
- Family Prostitution Case (2000)
- https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/history/a-look-back-at-st-louiss-brief-experiment-with-legalized-prostitution/article_cbff5b95-42bb-5f16-a221-13aa03984301.html (2020)
- https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/florissant-councilman-facing-charge-of-patronizing-prostitute-says-he-wont-resign/article_efbc1f58-f174-546e-b14c-a10f69586f50.html (2014)
- https://fox2now.com/news/city-council-member-faces-the-public-for-first-time-since-prostitution-arrest/ (2014)
- https://fox2now.com/news/florissant-city-councilman-arrested-for-soliciting-a-prostitute/ (2014)
- https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/old-felony-conviction-trips-up-two-term-florissant-city-council/article_36ee4f75-a19d-52da-9f86-e1bdd97b82cb.html (2019)