Iberia Parish is located in southwestern Louisiana, and has a population of about 69,000 residents. The parish seat is New Iberia, and its other largest city is Jeanerette. The parish is part of the 22-parish Acadiana region of the state, and is part of the Lafayette, Louisiana Metropolitan Statistical Area. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the communities and unincorporated areas of the parish for decades. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. For example, in January 1998 the Iberia Parish sheriff’s “Night Hawks” street team conducted a sweep of designated areas focusing on drug interdiction and prostitution, with most arrests made in New Iberia and Jeanerette. In 2008, the caretaker of a 62-year-old man, whose relationship with the patient included performing sex for money, was arrested and charged with armed robbery and prostitution. She told Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office investigators she performed sexual acts for money for the victim but needed more money to cover her bills and the victim refused to give it to her. She placed a towel over his face and held him down, took his wallet, and fled from the residence.

Among the more serious problems associated with commercial sex in the area are sex trafficking. For example, an article in a criminal law journal in the 1950s (Thorton, 1956, The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science) described a prostitution circuit that operated out of New Iberia and reached into eight states, with girls being shuttled around the circuit “held as prisoners of the syndicate until liberated by the FBI agents.” In May 2018, a New Iberia woman reported her 18-year-old daughter’s abduction and sex trafficking. The teen was forced into exchanging sex for money for 10 days, but managed to call her mother, and eventually police investigated and rescued the daughter, and arrested one man on human trafficking charges.

To combat prostitution and sex trafficking in the area, local law enforcement agencies have targeted consumer-level demand, which provides the revenue stream driving all prostitution and trafficking. For example, in January 2016, six men were arrested in connection with a human trafficking and prostitution operation for having sexual encounters with a 15-year-old female. The girl had been transported to areas in Franklin, Baldwin, and Jeanerette to be sexually abused by at least five men for monetary payments, yielding the charges of prostitution. The identities of the arrestees were published.