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Hoover is a city in Jefferson and Shelby counties in north central Alabama. It is the largest suburb of Birmingham, and has a population of about 93,000. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities in the Birmingham metro area, and in unincorporated areas of Shelby and Jefferson counties. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. The more serious problems associated with commercial sex in the area include child sex trafficking.
In January 2015, Hoover police conducted a sting operation in response to numerous complaints of prostitution and other illegal activity at a local hotel, arresting three women in the process. According to a press release from the Hoover Police Department, prostitution-related activity at the hotel and other locations in the city had been the source of various other crimes, including illegal drugs, thefts, burglaries, robberies, and rapes. Police said efforts to curb these types of crimes would remain ongoing with the use of both undercover and uniformed officers, who would focus their attention on areas frequented by prostituted persons. The statement also said that “solicitors of prostitution will also be targeted in the crackdown.”
In April 2015, five women were charged with prostitution after an undercover sting in Hoover. The Hoover Police Department had received several complaints from the Highway 150 area near Riverchase Galleria, a highly populated area with easy interstate access, which police believe contributes to prostitution rings operating in the area. Hoover Police conducted an undercover sting at a hotel in the 2900 block of Highway 150. The majority of women they arrested advertised on Backpage.com and similar websites, and ranged in age from 27 to 36 years old. Focusing on prostitution is considered important to local police as it contributes to other criminal activity like thefts. In October 2015, seven more women were charged with prostitution following an undercover operation in Hoover.
To combat prostitution and sex trafficking in the area, local law enforcement agencies have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex and the sexual exploitation of children, which provides the revenue stream driving all commercial sex and trafficking. For example, in March 2018, a Hoover resident was arrested for producing and disseminating child pornography (i.e., child sexual abuse materials), and was held at the Shelby County Jail with bonds totaling $90,000. According to court records, the man produced (filmed, printed, recorded, photographed, or otherwise) obscene matter that contained a visual reproduction of a person under the age of 17.
In September 2018, the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force arrested 11 men in an undercover reverse prostitution sting called “Operation Close Out,” carried out along the Highway 280 corridor, all of whom were charged with soliciting prostitution. In May 2019, an undercover reverse prostitution sting — where law enforcement focused on apprehending sex buyers — led to the arrests of 13 men in Shelby County. The operation, called “Operation Close Out, Round 4,″ was conducted by the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force and the Hoover Police Department and was one of four similar stings that also took place in September 2018, October 2018, and February 2019. All four operations led to 46 arrests. After the May 2019 reverse sting, the photos and other identifiers for all arrestees were publicly posted.
In February 2021, 15 people were arrested in reverse sting conducted by the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force, which they called the first phase of “Operation Intercept.” The operation was intended to be a continuation of the previous operations that took place in October 2019, May 2019, February 2019, October 2018, and September 2018, which resulted in a total of 57 offenders being arrested in connection with prostitution and sex trafficking. SCDETF, in partnership with the Hoover Police Department, conducted this operation in North Shelby County in the Riverchase area. Names and identifiers of the 15 arrestees were released to the press. Major Clay Hammac of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office explained:
“The purpose of these operations is to aggressively pursue patrons of the sex-trafficking industry, which is directly connected to human trafficking. Furthermore, law enforcement wishes to demonstrate a zero-tolerance for criminal solicitation and attack the demand for these type enterprises.”
- Hoover Police Department
- Shelby County Sheriff’s Department
- Shelby County Jail
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.facebook.com/HooverPD/photos/three-arrested-Hoover-prostitution-sting (2015)
- https://abc3340.com/news/local/reverse-prostitution-sting-nets-11-arrests-in-shelby-county (2018)
- https://www.al.com/men-arrested-in-shelby-county-reverse-prostitution-sting (2019)
- https://www.wbrc.com/reverse-prostitution-sting-shelby-county (2019)
- https://www.wvtm13.com/article/13-people-arrested-in-reverse-prostitution-sting (2019)
- https://www.al.com/news/birmingham/15-arrested-in-reverse-prostitution-sting-in-riverchase-area (2021)
- https://www.cbs42.com/news/local/15-arrested-in-reverse-prostitution-sting-in-undercover-operation (2021)
- https://abc3340.com/news/local/15-arrested-in-prostitution-sting-in-shelby-county (2021)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- http://blog.al.com/spotnews/three_arrested_in_shelby_count.html (2011)
- https://www.shelbycountyreporter.com/helena-woman-charged-with-promoting-prostitution (2015)
- https://hooversun.com/news/hoover-pd-arrests-seven-in-prostitution-sting (2015)
- https://www.hooverpd.com/seven-arrested-in-last-weeks-prostitution-sting (2015)
- https://abc3340.com/archive/five-arrested-in-hoover-prostitution-sting (2015)
- https://www.hooverpd.com/prostitution-sting-nets-5-arrests (2015)
- http://www.wbrc.com/story/hoover-pd-arrests-7-women-in-prostitution-sting (2015)
- https://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/alabaster_police_bust_escort (2016)
- https://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/7_women_busted_for_prostitutio (2017)
- https://www.shelbycountyreporter.com/indictment-alabaster-man-prostituted-at-least-4-victims (2017)
- https://patch.com/alabama/pelham-al/human-trafficking-suspect-arrested-pelham (2017)
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