Kansas City, MO

Tactics Used

Buyer Arrests
Reverse stings
Identity Disclosure
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Letters
Cameras
Web stings
License suspension
Employment Loss
IT Based Tactics

Kansas City, Missouri has had well documented problems with prostitution and sex trafficking spanning many decades.  In a recent example, over 100 arrests were made and nearly 50 victims were rescued in an inter-state human trafficking operation based out of Missouri. The Missouri Attorney General’s Office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol were the main communications coordinating the operations in “Operation United Front.” The multi-state human trafficking operations used sting operations to apprehend sex buyers buyers and to identify and extract victims.  According to the report, 102 arrests were made and medical services were given to 41 victims that were rescued.  According to Missouri Attorney General Schmitt, the Missouri portion of the operation took place at a business in Kansas City, and the investigation resulted in two arrests and 11 victims being provided medical care.

Kansas City is one of the first cities in the United States to have a “john school” education program for men arrested for soliciting prostitution, and at times has had two that operated within the city.   (Note:  for the purposes of this website, we often address Kansas City, KS and Kansas City, MO together, since many of the programs and practices overlap or operate collaboratively across the city lines; similar situation exists in the “twin cities” of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota).  The first was launched in 1992 by the Kansas City Municipal Court and an addiction/counseling center, Community Addictions Programs.  The most prominent current john school program – Offender’s Accountability Re-Education program (OAR) – was launched in 2000 by a non-profit, survivor-led organization, Veronica’s Voice.  A second program is currently operated by Kansas City Corrective Training, a for-profit corporation. Kansas City was also among the cities to make first use of local television in efforts designed specifically to combat demand, by airing the names and photographs of men arrested in reverse stings (1997).  Veronica’s Voice also makes public presentations about the need to combat demand, which they call the End Demand Campaign.

Veronica’s Voice John School

Veronica’s Voice Offenders Accountability Re-Education, or “Johnz School,” is an intensive, one-day, educational class. The approach brings about intervention for the demand side of prostitution. Attendees are court ordered. This is the only program that is fee-based at Veronica’s Voice. The fees for this program, which are paid by the “customer/john,” go directly to Veronica’s Voice (VV) and are used for all services and programs VV provides to the commercially sexually exploited women in the community. As an alternative to a conviction, first-time offenders arrested for patronizing prostitution (not involving a minor) are referred to the Johnz School as a condition of probation, diversion, or in lieu of prosecution. The fees collected from the Johnz School go back into Veronica’s Voice services and programming for victims. Regularly scheduled the 3rd Saturday of each month, the cost is $850, payable by only cash or money order.  A certificate of completion is granted at the end of the class if the fee is paid in full. Links to additional details about the program are provided below.

Public Education

In July, 2018, the Kansas Attorney General announced a new awareness campaign in Kansas is aimed at cutting the demand for prostitution as a way to fight human trafficking. The campaign involves state agencies and local advocacy groups teaming up to push the “Demand an End” initiative, which features education and announcements warning people that buyers of sex face charges. The campaign intends to promote a culture where buying sex is not acceptable. It is based on the assumption that the money from sex buyers fuels a marketplace that enables sex trafficking.

Reverse Stings:

In June, 2021, a 51-year-old man was arrested and accused of soliciting sex with – and furnishing pornographic materials to – a minor. Jackson County Prosecutors charged the man with patronizing prostitution with a minor, which is a felony, and five misdemeanor counts of furnishing pornographic materials to a minor. According to court records, two teens in Independence were approached by the man at a fast-food restaurant, where he initially offered them jobs at his company. Later, the man allegedly told one of the teens he was willing to pay $500 for nude pictures, according to court documents. The two juveniles said they made the man aware of their age.  Investigators said that a police detective later contacted the man, making him believe he was one of the teens. They discussed the possibility of sending him images or videos of sex acts for money.  The suspect then sent pornographic videos to the police detective and he later asked to engage in sex acts, believing it was the juvenile.

In May, 2022, 32 people were arrested in a massive child exploitation operation conducted across Missouri and Kansas. Authorities with the Department of Homeland Security said 15 of those arrests came from a sting conducted in Independence, Kansas City, Jackson, Platte, and Clay Counties in Missouri, and Bourbon County in Kansas. Multiple law enforcement agencies in the Wichita area teamed up for Operation Blue Ghost, which netted 17 arrests for crimes including aggravated human trafficking, promoting the sale of sex, and purchasing sex acts. Authorities in the Kansas City area collaborated to arrest an additional 15 individuals. According to a release from the Midwest division of the DHS, partners in and around Independence, Kansas City, Clay County, and Platte County in Missouri, and in Bourbon County, Kansas targeted adults willing to travel for the purpose of sexually exploiting a child. Of the 15 arrested in the Kansas City-area sting, authorities said crimes included intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, enticement of a minor, sex trafficking of a child, furnishing pornography to minors, sexual exploitation of a minor, promoting prostitution, aggravated human trafficking, sex trafficking, felony assault on a law enforcement officer, attempted statutory sodomy, and attempted second-degree statutory rape.

Comprehensive Initiative Including Reverse Stings, “Dear John” letters, Public Education, Shaming, and Neighborhood Action

On April 23, 2021, a new initiative was introduced that combats sex trafficking and prostitution in Northeast Kansas City by focusing on consumer-level demand.  The model pursued incorporates the core elements of the Nordic model: focusing law enforcement and collaborative deterrence efforts on the buyers, while viewing those “providing” commercial sex primarily as victims of sexual exploitation and providing them to support services.  The initiative leaders hope that their focus on sex buyers will affect the market for prostitution substantially, providing opportunities for those being trafficked to support and exit services, while “starving the demand for those services” in Northeast. The initiative features:

    • Posting billboards and street signs meant to deter buyers in areas known for activity
    • Online circulation of photos of sex buyers
    • Sending letters to the residence of those seen soliciting prostitution
    • Implementing reform strategies
    • Distributing cards with information and resources to business owners in high-risk areas
    • Arresting buyers while providing support and exit service to those exploited on the “supply” side.

The initiative involves a collaboration including: Christine’s Place, Relentless Pursuit Outreach and Recovery (RPOR), Alison Phillips with the Special Anti-Sex Trafficking Task Force of the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, Veronica’s Voice, Northeast Alliance Together (NEAT), Jackson County Legislator Theresa Galvin, State Representative Ingrid Burnett, the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID) and Northeast Chamber of Commerce, and others.

Other Arrests of Sex Buyers:

Some arrests and shaming of sex buyers occurs due to investigations or allegations against specific individuals, rather than proactive sting operations.  For example, in 2016, the Missouri Court of Appeals decidedly unanimously to uphold the conviction of a Kansas City, Mo., police officer who prosecutors say had sex with a women in return for not arresting her for prostitution and drug charges. In April 2014, a Jackson County jury convicted the man of corruption. He was originally charged with two counts of sexual assault and one count of deviant sexual assault, but the jury convicted him of one count of ‘acceding to corruption.’ According to prosecutors, Holmes had sex with a prostituted woman in a south Kansas City motel room in the spring of 2012 in exchange for not placing her under arrest. Detectives said an area motel had hired the man as an off-duty security officer to combat drugs, violence and prostitution. The 13-year veteran of the KCPD had been assigned to the South Patrol Division. The evidence presented at trial was clearly sufficient to establish that the man both solicited and knowingly accepted sex from the woman in exchange for his not arresting her for prostitution.  The man was sentenced to 15 days in county jail and a $2,500 fine.

 

Key Partners

  • Kansas City Police Department
  • Wyandott County Sheriff’s Office
  • Johnson County Sheriff’s Office
  • Veronica’s Voice
  • Kansas City Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation (KC CASE)
  • Kansas City Corrective Training, Inc.
  • Christine’s Place
  • Relentless Pursuit Outreach and Recovery (RPOR)
  • Missouri Attorney General’s Office
    • Special Anti-Sex Trafficking Task Force
  • Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Northeast Alliance Together (NEAT)
  • Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID)
  • Northeast Chamber of Commerce

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey, Interviews and Site Visit

John School:

Reverse Stings:

Web Stings:

Identity Disclosure:

Other Arrest of Sex Buyers, Identity Disclosure:

Neighborhood Action:

Letters:

Public Education:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Missouri
Type City
Population 450375
Location
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