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Lincoln is the capital and second-largest city in Nebraska, with about 293,000 residents. Prostitution has been a persistent and visible problem in the area, and the sex trafficking of minors in Lincoln has been well documented for decades. Robberies of sex buyers have also been documented. Community members have complained to local law enforcement about an increase in public solicitation for commercial sex. For example, In 2006, Lincoln police arrested four men and cited a fifth after they allegedly propositioned an undercover officer posing as a prostituted person. The reverse sting came just hours after the Chief of Police and two police sergeants met with about 40 neighbors at the F Street Community Center to hear their concerns about prostitution, drugs and petty theft in the Everett and South Salt Creek neighborhoods.
To address these and other crimes stemming from the sex trade, the Lincoln Police Department has incorporated the use of street-level reverse stings to identify and apprehend sex buyers. “Traditional” reversals (i.e., those using a female undercover officer as a decoy on city streets) have been conducted since at least 2004, if not earlier. The names of those arrested in stings are routinely publicized in press.
LPD officers have also conducted ad hoc stings targeting sex buyers; in November 1996, for example, the department announced the arrest of a city resident after he had responded to an ad suggesting prostitution in a local newspaper. Unbeknownst to the suspect, Lincoln police had already investigated the advertisement and arrested the woman who had placed it on prostitution-charges. Undercover officers then continued to field calls from individuals as they responded to the listing, intercepting at least one sex buyer in the process.
In 2005, the LPD extended its efforts by tracking Lincoln men attempting to purchase sex online. Using websites like Craigslist and Backpage.com, the LPD conducted several web-based reverse stings. Officers posted several decoy advertisements and arranged meetings with the sex buyers that replied. In August 2008, for example, one such operation resulted in the arrest of a man attempting to solicit sex from what he thought was a minor. The buyer was charged and sentenced with attempted first-degree sexual assault.
In 2015, law enforcement conducted two larger-scale reverse stings in September and December in Lincoln, netting 23 arrests in the process. The logistical details of both operations– specifically, whether they were conducted at street level or using web-based advertisements– were not disclosed, although the identities of arrestees were publicized in press. Following the September reversal, a LPD representative commented to the Lincoln Journal Star:
“With any business, which people consider prostitution and human trafficking part of a business, there’re two sides to it, supply and demand. If you can affect one of those, or both of them, it should theoretically drive down the problem. That’s what this operation was about, lowering the demand and arresting the johns.”
In January 2019, multiple people were arrested in an undercover prostitution sting in Lincoln, including one man charged with soliciting prostitution. Lincoln Police undercover officers responded to several advertisements offering sexual services with prostitutes. Officers set up meetings at a hotel, as part of the operation. In February 2019, a man targeted in a sex trafficking investigation was arrested for buying sex in Lincoln. In September, 2019, Lincoln police and other officials arrested six men during a human trafficking reverse sting at a local hotel. Two men were arrested on charges of suspicion of enticement after they arranged to meet at the hotel to have sex with a 15-year-old girl. The other four men were charged on suspicion for soliciting a prostitute after they agreed online to pay for sex from an adult woman. One of the arrested men was already faces assault and strangulation charges after allegedly slamming a woman’s head into a gravel road in the month prior to his arrest for soliciting.
Not all arrests of sex buyers are the result of sting operations; some are instead the product of investigations of specific allegations of offenses against real victims of sexual exploitation. For example, in February, 2021 a Lincoln man was arrested following a child enticement investigation, and held in the Lancaster County Jail on the following charges: sex trafficking of a minor, sexual assault of a child, violation of the sex offender registry act, solicit prostitution and child abuse. The investigation began after investigators received information that the suspect was contacting young females on various online chat rooms “with the express purpose of providing marijuana for sex.” Three victims were identified; 14, 15 and 16 years old. The man was a registered sex offender based upon a conviction of sexual assault of a minor in 2005.
In July, 2021, a former University of Nebraska-Lincoln student was arrested and charged for soliciting prostitution from a girl under the age of 18 after police say he invited two women to his dorm room and offered to pay to sexually abuse them. Two girls who had exchanged messages with the man on Snapchat agreed to visit him at his dorm, where he told them he would pay them money to visit, and later said he would pay them for a sexual threesome, and physically assaulted one of the girls who refused his advances.
Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred in the city. In August, 2016, 12 people were arrested in Lincoln as a part of a National Johns Suppression Initiative operation aimed at reducing sex trafficking by combating demand. One arrestee was a Lincoln Public Schools teacher and a man who taught classes at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, according to the Lincoln Police Department. The man taught physical education at Northeast High School. Lincoln Public Schools confirmed the man had been employed with the school system when he was arrested but no longer was. He worked for LPS for 23 years. Also arrested was the chairman of the Military Science Department at UNK. The man taught at the school through an arrangement with the ROTC and was paid by the corps. He resigned after the arrest.
- Lincoln Police Department
- Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office
- Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
- Omaha Police Department
- Nebraska State Patrol
Ad-Hoc Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Lincoln Man Faces Charge of Pandering,” Lincoln Journal Star, November 2 1996.
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Names Released of Suspects Arrested in Lincoln for Human Trafficking,” KOLN-TV 10, December 14 2015.
- “Nine Arrested in Lincoln Prostitution Sting,” NBC/KSNB-TV 4, December 14 2015.
- “Ten Arrested in Police Sting,” KLIN-AM 1400, December 14 2015.
- “Lincoln Teacher, Attorney among Those Arrested in Sex-Trafficking Operation,” Lincoln Journal Star, August 10 2016.
- https://www.1011now.com/news/Several-arrested-in-Lincoln-prostitution-sting (2019)
- https://www.ketv.com/2-men-arrested-1-ticketed-in-lincoln-human-trafficking-investigation (2019)
- http://columbusnewsteam.com/two-arrested-in-connection-to-sex-trafficking-investigation/ (2019)
Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “From the Blotter; Police Arrest Six for Prostitution or Pandering,” Lincoln Journal Star, August 1 2004.
- “Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” Lincoln Journal Star, March 13 2006.
- “Man Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” Lincoln Journal Star, October 8 2006.
- “Undercover Officers Lead to 5 Pandering Arrests,” Lincoln Journal Star, December 3 2006.
- “Police Conduct Prostitution Sting,” Lincoln Journal Star, December 22 2006.
- https://journalstar.com/news/local/men-arrested-in-prostitution-sting (2006)
- “Prostitution Sting Trial Scheduled for Monday,” Lincoln Journal Star, March 26 2007.
- “Six Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” Lincoln Journal Star, April 22 2007.
- “Police Arrest Alleged Prostitute, Panderer,” Lincoln Journal Star, May 1 2007.
- “Four Arrested in Sex Sting,” Lincoln Journal Star, October 19 2007.
- “3 Accused in Prostitution Sting Enter Guilty Pleas,” Lincoln Journal Star, October 21 2007.
- “Police Arrest 3 Pandering Suspects,” Lincoln Journal Star, May 9 2008.
- “4 Charged with Soliciting Prostitution,” Lincoln Journal Star, June 17 2008.
- “5 Men Accused of Soliciting Prostitution,” Lincoln Journal Star, June 29 2008.
- “Three Face Charges after Prostitution Sting,” Lincoln Journal Star, July 15 2008.
- “Trooper among 7 Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” Lincoln Journal Star, August 24 2008.
- “Monroe Man Arrested for Soliciting Prostitution,” Lincoln Journal Star, April 22 2009.
- “Police: 3 Lincoln Men Solicited Prostitution,” Lincoln Journal Star, June 22 2009.
- “National Sex Trafficking Sting Nets 16 Arrests in Lincoln,” Lincoln Journal Star, September 3 2015.
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Two Arrests in Craig’s List Prostitution Sting,” ABC/KLKN-TV 8.
- “Nebraska City Businessman Arrested in Super Bowl Sex Sting,” KWBE-AM 1450, February 10 2016.
- https://www.ketv.com/article/6-men-arrested-in-lincoln-in-connection-with-human-trafficking-at-hotel (2019)
- https://www.ketv.com/police-nebraska-man-met-teen-girls-in-chat-rooms-offered-to-trade-marijuana-for-sex (2021)
Arrest of Sex Buyers, Identity Disclosure:
- https://journalstar.com/former-unl-student-charged-with-soliciting-prostitution-from-minor-while-on-campus (2021)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Runaway Recounts Life of Prostitution,” Omaha World-Herald, December 7 1984.
- “Lincoln Man Enters No Contest Pleas,” Lincoln Journal Star, January 20 2009.
- “For Pimping Mom, Parole Can’t Come Until Age 87,” Lincoln Journal Star, February 8 2013.
- “Prison for Man Caught with Photos of Prostituted 14-Year-Old,” Lincoln Journal Star, February 28 2013.
- “‘I Have Regrets’ Says Man Sentenced in Child Sex Case,” Lincoln Journal Star, April 17 2013.
- “Clarks Man Who Paid for Sex with Woman and Her Daughter Goes to Prison,” Lincoln Journal Star, December 23 2013.
- “Lincoln Man Accused of Soliciting Prostitution from Teen,” Lincoln Journal Star, May 12 2015.
- https://www.ketv.com/3-men-arrested-teenage-girls-sex-trafficked-at-nebraska-apartment (2021)
- https://www.klin.com/arrests-made-in-child-sex-trafficking-case/ (2021)
- https://journalstar.com/34-year-old-described-by-victims-as-monster-gets-prison-time-for-sex-trafficking (2023)
- https://www.klkntv.com/it-happens-in-casinos-every-single-day-lincoln-warhorse-staff-get-human-trafficking-training (2023)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Lincoln Police Cite Two Women in Prostitution Sting,” Lincoln Journal Star, July 31 1996.
- “From the Blotter; Prostitution Suspect Arrested,” Lincoln Journal Star, June 9 2001.
- “Police Arrest Woman for Prostitution,” Lincoln Journal Star, September 29 2006.
- “Prostitution Arrest Made in Lincoln High Parking Lot,” Lincoln Journal Star, June 29 2007.
- “Craigslist Used in Prostitution Arrest,” Lincoln Journal Star, August 14 2007.
- “Woman Arrested after Investigator Answers Ad,” Lincoln Journal Star, November 29 2007.
- “Police Struggle with Escort Enforcement,” Lincoln Journal Star, March 21 2008.
- “Woman Allegedly Propositioned Officer,” Lincoln Journal Star, June 22 2009.
- “Two Lincoln Women Arrested for Prostitution,” Lincoln Journal Star, November 20 2010.
- “Woman Arrested on Prostitution Charge,” Lincoln Journal Star, February 22 2012.
- “Police, FBI Nab Seven in Prostitution Operation,” Lincoln Journal Star, July 29 2013.
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Lincoln Robbery Call Turns into Prostitution Arrest,” Lincoln Journal Star, August 3 2010.
- https://starherald.com/two-lincoln-women-charged-robbery-of-man-they-met-on-facebook-court-records-show (2023)