Joplin, MO

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

Joplin is a city of about 52,000 residents that is located in western Missouri, along Interstate 44 near the Oklahoma and Kansas borders.  Prostitution has been reported in the city as early as the 1870s, when a mining boom brought a large influx of male miners, soon followed by brothels.  In 2012-2013, a case of sex trafficking was reported by the local media after police surveillance of led officers to a 14-year-old runaway being pimped online by two adults. Among the many incidents of prostitution related violence that have occurred in the city was a case of a pimp stabbing a sex buyer to death.

Historically, the majority of the Joplin Police Department’s efforts to combat prostitution have targeted prostituted women over sex buyers. In January 2013, however, the JPD “reversed the course of recent online sting operations” and conducted a web-based reverse sting at a local motel. Whereas in previous operations Joplin detectives had contact escort services advertising sex on, the January sting saw officers posting their own decoy advertisement to the site. As sex buyers responded to the ad, an undercover officer arranged to meet them at a local motel. Detectives arrested one man and cited three others for soliciting prostitution when they arrived at a designated motel room with an intention of paying for sex. The men’s ages ranged from 36 to 67, and all were from the Joplin or Springfield areas.  All face the same misdemeanor charge police had previously levied against prostituted women advertising on Backpage. The chief of police said the decision to target sex buyers instead of prostituted persons reflects the department’s acknowledgment that “customers” contribute to the problems prostitution brings to the city.

In June 2014, Joplin officers conducted a second web-based reverse sting, resulting in the arrest of nine sex buyers. Officers with the Joplin Police Department’s Investigations Bureau conducted a prostitution sting at an un-named hotel in Joplin. During this operation the Investigations Bureau arrested two females for prostitution and also arrested nine males for soliciting prostitution. One of the men was also arrested for resisting arrest. Mug shots and a list of names and charges for those that were arrested was included in a police press release. All were arrested on misdemeanor charges and were transported to the Joplin City Jail for booking.

Key Partners

  • Joplin Police Department

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking in the Area:

Background on Prostitution, Related Violence in the Area:

State Missouri
Type City
Population 51846
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