Johnson City, TN

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

Johnson City is a city of approximately 71,000 residents, located in Washington County in northeastern Tennessee. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses.

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 curtail local demand, the Johnson City Police Department has incorporated the use of web stings and street-level reverse stings. Several web-based reversals were conducted in 2008, one of which resulted in the arrest of 11 sex buyers, whose names and ages were released publicly. An operation conducted in May 2011 at a local hotel resulted in the arrest of three sex buyers. As one of the arrestees was a public servant, his name and photo was released to the media.

A Johnson City man was arrested in 2011 after he hired a prostituted woman for his 12-year-old son. He pleaded guilty in Washington County Criminal Court to solicitation of child rape. His arrest was part of a Johnson City police prostitution sting conducted at a North Roan Street motel. He was ordered to serve a 10-year prison sentence, and must serve 35 percent of the sentence before being eligible for parole.

In March 2020, eight men were arrested in an undercover operation aimed at child sex trafficking in northeast Tennessee. The two-day operation was conducted by the TBI Human Trafficking Unit and detectives with the Johnson City Police Department. Law enforcement placed several decoy advertisements on website known for prostitution to identity people seeking commercial sexual exploitation with minors. Each man was charged with trafficking a person for a commercial sex act and booked into the Washington County Detention Center. Their names and identifying information were released to the press.

Some arrests of sex buyers are not the result of reverse stings using police decoys, but are instead the product of investigations into allegations against real victims. For example, in 2017, a former Kingsport Police Department lieutenant pleaded guilty to patronizing prostitution in Johnson City following an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct. Investigators found that the man paid to have sex while on duty and inside his unmarked police vehicle, and he later pleaded guilty to one count of patronizing prostitution.

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the city. For example, in May 2020, the Assistant District Attorney was arrested and fired from his job after a federal sting caught him engaged in illegal activity with a prostituted woman. The man had worked at the DA’s office about a year. The arrest occurred following an investigation conducted by criminal investigators of the District Attorney’s Office and federal agents. The termination of his employment occurred immediately after the arrest.

Key Partners

  • Johnson City Police Department
  • Kingsport Police Department
  • Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • Homeland Security Investigations
  • Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Tennessee
Type City
Population 71278
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