Independence County is located northern Arkansas, between Little Rock and Jonesboro, and has a population of about 37,000. The county seat is Batesville. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the county, and this activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking.
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. To identify and apprehend local sex buyers driving the prostitution and sex trafficking markets, the Independence County Sheriff’s Office (ICSO) has conducted operations targeting demand. In January 2019, it was reported that Independence, Pulaski, and Dallas counties in Arkansas were conducting online reverse stings targeting individuals seeking to buy sex with children. Through the end of 2018, a series of internet operations by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) had made 40 arrests for Internet Stalking of a Child. But in early 2019, the department was shifting attention to commercial sex and sex trafficking facilitated by social media and online ads. DCSO deputies received hundreds of responses to their decoy chats and ads, and more responses form sex buyers appeared as soon as they cleared each case. Most of the responses were from potential predators, who believe they’re talking to a teen girl and setting up meetings for sex. Given the demand for sex with children, the DCSO has expanded its use of social media to apprehend those paying for sex with adults. Some of the men ask the undercover officers if they can download video software and offer to pay for “performances” of sex acts. Six men were arrested the first week the DCSO began online reverse stings. Reports stated that Pulaski County and Independence County were conducting similar operations to fight online sex crimes such as child sex trafficking and prostitution by targeting sex buyers and sexual predators. All three counties have reached out to the Arkansas State Police and the Arkansas Attorney General’s office to expand their reach and resources for these operations.
- Independence County Sheriff’s Office
- Arkansas State Police
- Arkansas Attorney General’s Office
Web-Based Reverse Stings: