|IT Based Tactics||✓|
Knox County has a population of about 440,000 (most in the city of Knoxville), and is located in eastern Tennessee. Prostitution and sex trafficking are known to occur in the city, and yield numerous related crimes, including child endangerment, assault, homicide, robbery, and drug offenses. Among the more serious issues associated with the city’s commercial sex market is child sex trafficking. For example, in 2016 the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and detectives with Knoxville Police Department conducted a web-based operation, “Operation Someone Like Me,” focused on targeting individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. During the three-day operation, undercover officials posted decoy ads on Backpage.com, in which more than 300 contacts were made to those ads by potential sex buyers. In one ad, undercover officials posed as a juvenile girl, which received more than two dozen contacts. Another consequence of an active local sex trade was the presence of a serial rapist and murderer who operated in Knox County in 1991-1992, specifically targeting prostituted women. In 2009, the county Department of Public Health attributed a syphilis outbreak to prostitution, and noted that at least 10 HIV-positive women had been actively prostituting in the county. In November, 2016, sixteen people were arrested after an investigation by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Homeland Security and the FBI uncovered a prostitution ring at a local hotel. The group of conspirators originally traveled to New York from Texas and was on its way back when stopping in Knoxville, and posted advertisements on backpage.com for prostitution. Investigators discovered that one of the women had two children. The two young children, a one-year-old and a three-year-old, were found returning to a hotel with two non-related men. The children were placed in temporary custody of the Department of Children’s Services. The charges against the conspirators included human trafficking, possession of illicit drugs, driving on suspended license, violation of the child restraint law, violation of probation, prostitution, patronizing prostitution, impersonating a licensed professional, and performing massages without a state license.
Efforts to address the problems associated with commercial sex have included the use of anti-demand tactics. For example, in July, 2013 twelve men were arrested during a web-based reverse sting at a West Knox County hotel, using the “Backpage.com” website. The names of arrestees were released to news outlets. Between October 2012 and July 2013, the KCSO has arrested 149 people in prostitution stings connected with that website (we are unsure how many were sex buyers). Of the cases that have been to court, either the defendants pleaded guilty or were found guilty. In May 2014, police conducted a web-based reverse sting and arrested three sex buyers, and an operation in 2021 produced 11 arrests of sex buyers seeking to pay to sexually abuse children.
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- http://www.wate.com/kcso-12-men-arrested-in-prostitution-sting-at-west-knox-county-hotel (2013)
- http://www.local8now.com/Crimetracker-Twelve-arrested-in-Knox-County-prostitution-sting (2013)
- http://www.local8now.com/3-men-accused-of-trying-to-buy-sex-at-West-Knox-County-hotel (2014)
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
Background on Local Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Related Crimes:
- http://www.knoxnews.com/infected-and-untreated-prostitutes-behind-knox-county/ (2009)
- “‘Modern-Day Slavery’: Woman Sentenced in Interstate Prostitution Ring”, Knoxville News-Sentinel, August 27 2009.
- “Feds Bust Alleged Multi-State Prostitution Ring”, ABC/WHAS-TV 11, May 10 2011.
- “Knoxville Teen Plays Role in Nabbing of Alleged Pimp”, Knoxville News-Sentinel, July 3 2011.
- “Nine Indicted in Sex-Slavery Ring”, Knoxville News-Sentinel, July 13 2011.
- “Woman Pleads Guilty to Running Prostitution Service from Knox House”, Knoxville News-Sentinel, September 30 2011.
- “West Knox Madam Draws 33-Month Prison Term”, Knoxville News-Sentinel, May 8 2012.
- https://www.wbir.com/school-bus-driver-texted-prostitute-during-fatal-crash (2014)
- https://www.wate.com/police-6-men-arrested-and-charged-in-prostitution-sting/ (2016)
- https://www.wkrn.com/news/witnessing-sex-trafficking-sting-was-eye-opening-for-tennessee-lawmaker (2018)
- https://www.wate.com/news/local-news/knox-county-sex-trafficking-arrests-highlight-problem-and-how-to-stop-it/ (2019)
- https://www.wjhl.com/news/local/the-truth-behind-child-sex-trafficking-in-tenn-how-and-where-it-happens/ (2020)
- https://www.wate.com/news/knox-county-news/hope-will-rise-dinner-raising-funds-to-end-child-sex-trafficking (2022)
Prostitution-Related Violence, Homicide:
- “Four Tenn. Murders Thought Connected to Prostitution Ring”, Middlesboro Daily News, August 14 1975.
- “Knox Man Testifies Male Prostitute Beat, Robbed Him; Defendant Is Accused of Killing Doctor”, Knoxville News-Sentinel, November 15 1990.
- “Suspect in Slaying Convicted of Robbery; Defendant Acquitted of Kidnapping Charge”, Knoxville News-Sentinel, November 16 1990.
- “Accused Slayer Sentenced in Robbery Case”, Knoxville News-Sentinel, January 4 1991.
- “Slaying Suspect Faces Charges in Another Case”, Knoxville News-Sentinel, January 5 1991.
- “Male Prostitute Indicted in Doctor’s Death”, Knoxville News-Sentinel, February 7 1991.
- “TBI Joins in Probes of Slayings, Assaults; Reports of Abuse Noted in Sevier”, Knoxville News-Sentinel, October 31 1992.
- “Cold Case: Investigators Link Five Unsolved Knox County Murder Cases”, NBC/WBIR-TV 10, May 17 2012.