Limestone County is part of the Huntsville, Alabama Metropolitan Statistical Area, and has a population of about 94,000. The county seat is Athens, a city of about 23,000 residents located along Interstate 65 in northern Alabama, north of Birmingham and near Huntsville. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in Athens and other areas of the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. For example, in 2009, four women accused of offering to sell sex to undercover officers were arrested and charged with promoting prostitution. The Limestone County Sheriff had previously warned the four women about reports of prostitution at their places of businesses off U.S. 72. He had visited one business, and then sent undercover officers to the business and three women agreed to exchange sex for money. The same process occurred at two other businesses. Each of the women was released from the Limestone County Jail after posting $1,000 bail. In May, 2014, an undercover operation led to three arrests relating to prostitution at a Spa in Elkmont.
In March, 2019 Limestone County Sheriff’s Office arrested a man who was charged with human trafficking and drug offenses. He had approached a minor about being a prostitute for him. He was charged with human trafficking first-degree and distribution of a controlled substance, and booked in the Limestone County Jail with a bond set at $10,000 for the distribution charge. A bond was not immediately set for the human trafficking charge. The sheriff’s office said that in March 2019, an investigator took a report for a juvenile who had allegedly been sexually assaulted, and recruited for prostitution. The Child Advocacy Center interviewed the juvenile, and during the interview, the child said the offender had given him/her marijuana and talked about the juvenile becoming a prostitute. Investigators began a human trafficking investigation and arrest warrants were issued.
in April 2018, a prostitution ring was uncovered in Limestone County, and had been operating for several months. One woman was charged with second-degree human trafficking and other charges. The woman had been arrested for possessing meth, and a search warrant for her cell phone exposed the prostitution ring. The ring involved at least fourteen prostitutes, according to investigators. The accused prostitutes were men and women. The woman had recruited her “workers” and then set up parties at motels in the Athens area. At those sex parties, the prostitutes that had been recruited were required to perform sex acts with “Johns.” The woman paid her workers with illegal drugs like meth, and pocketed the cash. She also arranged private liaisons in motel rooms between her prostitutes and paying customers. Along with human trafficking, she was charged with possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and illegal possession of marijuana.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. The Athens Police Department has conducted several anti-prostitution operations, including reverse stings. In 2006 a street-level sting used two decoys and resulted in the arrest of 13 johns, and another reversal that year resulted in 7 arrested johns. Three areas of Athens police targeted during the investigation included U.S. 31, Washington Street and Hine Street. The vehicles of arrestees were seized and a payment of $160 was required to recover them. Once convicted, the men were also required to pay a $500 fine plus court fees. The names and ages of the arrested sex buyers were released to news outlets.
- Limestone County Sheriff’s Office
- Limestone County Jail
- Athens Police Department
- “11 Charged in Prostitution Sting”, Athens News Courier, May 27 2006.
- “Two Charged with Prostitution”, Athens News Courier, June 9 2006.
- “Female Officers Walking Streets to Nail Johns”, Athens News Courier, July 1 2006.
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- https://www.al.com/3_women_arrested_in_prostituti.html (2014)
- https://www.al.com/news/2018/04/human_trafficking_suspect_jail.html (2018)
- https://www.waaytv.com/Prostitution-ring-busted-in-Limestone-County (2018)
- https://www.waff.com/more-details-released-on-athens-womans-alleged-sex-for-drugs-operation/ (2018)
- https://www.waaytv.com/Limestone-Co-Sheriffs-Office-says-man-tried-to-recruit-minor-for-prostitution (2019)
- https://www.rocketcitynow.com/news/athens-man-arrested-for-human-trafficking/ (2019)
- https://www.enewscourier.com/athens-man-charged-with-human-trafficking (2019)
- https://whnt.com/man-charged-with-human-trafficking-recruited-juvenile-into-prostitution (2019)