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Fort Smith is a city of approximately 90,000 residents, situated along Arkansas’ northwest border with Oklahoma in Sebastian County. Prostitution has been associated with a number of local problems and has generated complaints to police. Among the more serious issues associated with the city’s commercial sex market is child sex trafficking. For example, in 2010, a Fort Smith resident was convicted of sex trafficking two underage girls in the city using online advertisements.
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. Street-level reverse stings have been conducted as a means of combating prostitution and sex trafficking since at least 2000. In one such case in 2009, a man was arrested, charged a fine, and sentenced to 10 days in jail. When male sex buyers are charged for solicitation, they are also subject to public identity disclosure, wherein their names, ages, addresses, and sometimes pictures are published in local news outlets. Sex buyers in Fort Smith have also been caught in web-base reverse stings conducted by local police. For example, in 2010, one such reversal resulted in the arrest of six male sex buyers on solicitation charges, including two public school employees. Other tactics to combat demand for commercial sex in the city include public education, SOAP orders, seizure of vehicles used in a crime, and the use of surveillance cameras used to gather evidence against sex buyers.
Since 2009, the Fort Smith Police Department has also had a unit dedicated to street crimes, such as prostitution. Community involvement is another resource used to fight prostitution in the community. In 2008, neighborhood associations began working with local police to target crimes such as prostitution which became a nuisance to local residents. Through this partnership, residents often alert police to sex trafficking activity in their area, which can lead to sting operations and arrests.
Loss of employment is also a consequence of buying sex in the city. For example, in 2010, a former Fort Smith junior high school principal was arrested during a reverse prostitution sting. According to reports, the former principal was arrested for soliciting prostitution after he had attempted to solicit sex from an undercover female officer in exchange for $175. The former principal resigned from his position upon being released from jail. In 2013, a former Fort Smith city employee was arrested during a web-based prostitution sting after attempting to solicit sex from an undercover female officer online. As a result of his arrest, the former Fort Smith Port Authority / former city director resigned from his position. In 2015, a former Fort Smith police officer was arrested on charges of soliciting prostitution. According to reports, a prostituted woman being interviewed for an unrelated crime, claimed that she had been solicited for sex acts by a Fort Smith officer in exchange for $100 on multiple occasions. The two had allegedly met when the former officer arrested the prostituted woman and transported her to the local jail. Months later, on an unrelated call, the former officer came in contact with the woman again, wherein he solicited her for sex acts in exchange for money. The officer was seen to have withdrawn money on two separate occasions on the nights the pair arranged to meet. Investigators are in possession of those Facebook conversations and still ATM photos from Arvest Bank showing the former officer withdrawing $100 on two separate occasions with another person in the passenger seat of his car. As a result of his arrest, the sex buyer turned himself in to officials, and subsequently resigned from his position. Documents show that the former officer had been employed by the Fort Smith Police Department for eleven years.
- Fort Smith Police Department
- Criminal Investigation Division, Street Crimes Unit
- Neighborhood associations
National Assessment Survey and Interview
Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Police Arrest Patrons in Prostitution Sweep”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 15 2000.
- “Sting Nets More Arrests”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, October 15 2001.
- “Prostitute Sting Nets 9 Arrests”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, October 28 2001.
- “Police Target ‘Johns’ in Prostitution Sting”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, April 29 2002.
- “Prostitution Ring Nets 4”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, May 6 2002.
- “Prostitute Sting Nets Coach”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, June 28 2004.
- “Updated: Prostitutes Continue Working”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, July 4 2004.
- “Prostitution Crackdown Strikes Chord”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, July 8 2004.
- “Lawyer Pleads Not Guilty in Prostitution Sting”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, January 10 2006.
- “Cracking down on Street Crime”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, June 26 2006.
- “Street Crimes Unit Tackles Tough Jobs”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, February 2 2009.
- “Roland Man Arrested in Fort Smith”, Sequoyah County Times, June 1 2009.
- “Official’s Court Date Scheduled”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, June 19 2009.
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Principal, Teacher Arrested”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, September 11 2010.
- “Port Authority Member Resigns after Solicitation Arrest”, CBS/KFSM-TV 5, January 7 2013.
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Woman Arrested in Underage Prostitution Case”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, November 20 2009.
- “Court Hears Prostitution Plea”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, November 26 2009.
- “Woman Sentenced for Prostituting Minors”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, July 1 2010.
- “Fort Smith Man Suspected of Human Trafficking,” Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, November 11 2014.
- “Fort Smith Man Charged in Sex Trafficking Case,” CBS/KFSM-TV 5, March 18 2015.
- “Police: Two Arrested in Human Trafficking Scheme in Fort Smith,” ABC/KHBS-TV 40, September 10 2015.
- “Arkansas Man Sentenced for Sex Trafficking Two Minors to Prostitute in Houston,” ABC/KTBS-TV 3, December 2 2015.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Historian Peeks Inside Fort Smith Brothels”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 21 1994.
- “Historic Bordello Waits for Reprieve; Guides Talk of Building’s Colorful Past, Plans to Repair Tornado Damage”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 30 1997.
- “Men Named in Notebook to Be Traced List Taken in Arrest of Fort Smith Woman”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 3 1998.
- “Woman Accused of Prostitution Had List of Men’s Names, Phone Numbers”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 3 1998.
- “Prostitution Case Has Web Link; Police Contact ‘Ms. Goodynight’ Online, Arrest Local Woman at Motel”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 10 1999.
- “Operation Saturation to Continue”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, April 26 2004.
- “Fort Smith Prostitution Sting Nets Four Arrests In Van Buren”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, April 7 2012.
- “Police: Fort Smith Hotel Manager, Employee Promoted Prostitution”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, January 17 2013.
- “Arrested Prostitution Suspect Agreed to Accept $70 and a Bud Light for Sex, Police Say”, CBS/KFSM-TV 5, July 25 2014.
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Update: Man Says Pair Took His Cash”, Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, September 23 2004.
Sex Buyer Fired and/or Resigned Due to Arrest:
- https://www.ksla.com/story/13141540/ark-principal-arrested-in-prostitution-sting/ (2010)
- http://5newsonline.com/2013/01/07/former-city-director-arrested-on-sexual-solicitation-charge/ (2013)
- https://www.5newsonline.com/article/news/local/outreach/back-to-school/officer-resigns-from-fort-smith-pd-following-prostitution-investigation/527-d46c38f9-adac-4c50-9f64-ef7f5252c6a2 (2015)
- https://www.4029tv.com/article/fort-smith-police-officer-resigns-after-charged-with-sexual-solicitation/4957334 (2015)
- https://amp.hutchnews.com/amp/26328718007 (2015)