Hannibal, MO

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

Hannibal is a city of about 15,000 residents, located on the Mississippi River in northeast Missouri. Local prostitution has been problematic and has generated complaints to police for decades.  Recent examples include several investigations in 2016 and 2017 on a range of charges including soliciting prostitution, promoting prostitution, and related drug offenses. In August 2016, Hannibal Officers assigned to the Anti-Crime Enforcement Squad (ACES), acting on information they had received from concerned citizens, investigated prostitution in the 4000 block of Market St.  They were assisted by the Eastern Missouri Human Trafficking Task Force. Officers contacted two female suspects at a local hotel. During the course of the investigation Ratliff was arrested for prostitution, and promoting prostitution.In November 2016,  Hannibal Police Officers assigned to ACES conducted investigations into prostitution, and made two arrests outside of a residence and one outside of a business.

Among the tactics used in the city to address problems associated with prostitution have been those targeting consumer level demand. The Hannibal Police Department developed information that prostitution was occurring in the city in 2016, they started investigating it and making arrests in the later part of the year. In 2017, the Hannibal Police Department decided to go after the revenue source, the men soliciting prostitutes.

“Just like in a drug case, where you have to attack not only the source, but the demand. So we switched our focus from prostitution to the solicitors. The decision was made to begin actively investigating those who patronize prostitution services with the belief that it would serve as more of a deterrent and prevent it from becoming well established in the community. In combating illegal drug distribution, you need to attack it from different angles and understand all the different ways it is funded and do what you can to lessen or stop that revenue stream.” 

Assistant Chief, Hannibal Police Department, February 1, 2017

A series of reverse stings resulted in 33 arrests during the month of January 2017.  Although the mug shots and identifying information were released to news outlets, it could be argued that it should not be considered “identity disclosure” in this instance, since local police initially withheld the identities of the men from the media, and the names and mugshots were released by the Hannibal Police Department only because they filed Sunshine Law requests. However, the end result is that the identities were disclosed, and whatever results may follow that disclosure will occur regardless of the intent of the law enforcement agencies that had released the information.

Arrests of sex buyers in Hannibal have occurred as the result of investigations of offenses against real victims, and are not always the result of stings using police decoys. In September, 2021, a man was arrested for seeking sex in exchange for drugs and money at the 1200 block of Broadway in Hannibal, where a search of his vehicle revealed a substance believed to be methamphetamine. The arrest was a result of an investigation by a detective assigned to the Anti-Crime Enforcement Squad. The man was charged with patronizing prostitution, possession of a controlled substance, and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia.  In May, 2022, a man from Hannibal who spent more than 30 years working as a deputy juvenile officer in Missouri state court was indicted in United States District Court on a felony charge of sex trafficking of a minor. The indictment alleged that between March 25, 2020, and April 2, 2020, the man solicited a minor to engage in a commercial act. The female victim was 15-years-old and was a ward of the state of Illinois. The motion alleged that the man met the victim via a dating app, and then picked up the girl and brought her to his home in Hannibal, where he committed the offenses of statutory rape and statutory sodomy while secretly videotaping her. Investigators traced information on the dating app to the offender, and searched his home on August, 2020, the motion stated. They found “numerous explicit photos and videos of women” that appeared to have been recorded by the offender.  The case was investigated by the Palmyra Police Department, the Hannibal Police Department, and the FBI. The man eventually pleaded guilty to paying a minor for sexual abuse.

Key Partners

  • Hannibal Police Department
    • Anti-Crime Enforcement Squad (ACES)
  • Palmyra Police Department
  • FBI

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Arrest of Sex Buyer; Identity Disclosure:

Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Prostitution:

Local Prostitution Ordinance:

State Missouri
Type City
Population 17808
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