Knox County, 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

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, 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 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 “” 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.

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Background on Local Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Related Crimes:

Prostitution-Related Violence, Homicide:

State Tennessee
Type County
Population 441311
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