Jefferson County, AL

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

Jefferson County is the most populous county in the state of Alabama, with a population of roughly 668,000 residents. It is located in central Alabama and the county seat is Birmingham. Prostitution activity has been well-documented throughout Jefferson County for many years. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are sex trafficking, child endangerment, and violence committed against people involved in these transactions. For example, in February 2019, a joint investigation into prostitution and human trafficking in Homewood, AL, led to the arrests of seven people and the rescue of a juvenile girl who had been sex trafficked. The Homewood Police Department’s Vice and Narcotics Unit had carried out an online operation targeting prostitution in the city, in collaboration with the Vestavia Hills Police Department and the FBI. In addition to prostitution arrests, two male offenders were charged with promoting prostitution. The identities, photos, ages, locations, and charges of the arrested offenders were included in reports from local news sources.

Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies in their strategy for prevention and response. To combat the array of problems stemming from commercial sex, local law enforcement agencies have conducted reverse stings. Within Birmingham, prostitution sweeps have arrested up to 130 men in reverse stings using undercover female police officers. The first known reverse sting in the city was conducted in 1987 and resulted in the arrest of over 140 male sex buyers. In 2007, a campaign to publicly disclose the identities of arrested sex buyers was conducted in which pictures of convicted prostituted persons and sex buyers were broadcast on a local access cable channel. However, due to a law passed in 2016, media outlets are prohibited from publishing the mugshots of anyone charged with prostitution (does not apply to sex buyers) without special permission from a judge. In April 2010, the Birmingham Police Department announced that eight men were charged with soliciting prostitution after a BPD Vice Unit reverse sting targeting sex buyers in Birmingham. In March 2012, the BPD conducted an undercover operation in the Woodlawn area of north Birmingham that resulted in the arrest of 35 individuals on charges of soliciting prostitution. In 2014, the BPD arrested seven suspects on prostitution-related charges in an operation at a local massage parlor.

There have also been many multi-agency operations in the other communities and incorporated areas of Jefferson County. For example, in May 2017, the Alabama Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force conducted the first Operation Standing Guard in Jefferson, Shelby, and St. Clair counties. The three-day operation resulted in six warrants being served, five individuals being arrested, and four child victims being identified. Operation Standing Guard is a series of operations that target individuals who communicate online with minors and travel to meet them for the purpose of sexual abuse, individuals who are willing to exploit minors by purchasing access to sexually abuse them, and individuals who produce, possess, and/or distribute child pornography (i.e., child sexual abuse materials).

In November 2017, St. Clair County law enforcement agencies participated Operation Standing Guard II, a five-day operation once again targeting child predators. ALEA’s Alabama Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force announced charges against two men arrested during Operation Standing Guard II, which occurred in the Birmingham area. During the initiative, ICAC seized 100 electronic devices, carried out eight search warrants, identified 22 children that were being sexually exploited through social media, and initiated two sexual assault cases. In November 2017, the Georgia ICAC Task Force conducted a joint operation with the Alabama ICAC Task Force called Operation Hidden Guardian. The Georgia ICAC Task Force arrested 21 suspects, with seven cases involving Alabama citizens who had traveled from Alabama to Columbus, GA with the expectation of sexually abusing a child.

In July 2019, over a dozen individuals were arrested and charged in a prostitution and sex trafficking operation led by the Homewood Police Department’s Vice and Narcotics Unit. According to authorities, five of the arrested individuals were male sex buyers who were also charged with promoting prostitution. The operation was part of the FBI’s months-long effort, “Operation Independence Day,” to combat demand for commercial sex and sex trafficking.

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Identity Disclosure:

Neighborhood Action:

  • “Car Tags Seen as Prostitute Solution”, Birmingham News, July 26 1995.

Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Prostitution:

State Alabama
Type County
Population 667820
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