Little Rock, AR
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Little Rock is the capital and largest city in Arkansas, with approximately 202,000 residents. Prostitution has been a persistent and visible problem in the city for decades, and has generated a wide range of crimes associated with commercial sex activity, including child and adult sex trafficking, drug trafficking, weapons offenses, homicide (including the targeting of prostituted women by at least one serial killer) and the production of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in criminal codes). For example, in April, 2017, a local pimp was sentenced to 15 years in prison for forcing a 17 year old girl to engage in prostitution (i.e., paid sexual assault of a minor) with up to 25 men per day. In November, 2o21, a Little Rock man pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a 6-year-old child, and was later sentenced to life in prison. The child had been taken to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in February 2018 suffering from symptoms that were later determined to be caused by several sexually transmitted diseases. The child was interviewed by an FBI forensic interviewer and disclosed that two men had raped her in a hotel room that had been rented by the child’s mother. The two suspects tested positive for sexually transmitted diseases, and they admitted in court that they had sexually assaulted the child and were involved in trafficking her with others. In August, 2022, a former professional boxer was sentenced in federal court to 30 years in prison following his conviction on “child pornography” and sex trafficking charges. He was originally indicted in 2019 on firearms and drug charges and went to trial on two counts of sex trafficking, one count of distribution of child pornography and one count of production of child pornography. His trial was dominated mostly by the testimony of two women, one of whom told jurors that the offender had lured her with promises of making fast money, but after she agreed to move in with him he kept her captive and began beating her when she refused to engage in prostitution. The woman testified that she escaped when the man took her and his girlfriend to a Walmart in Little Rock, where she ran to an employee for help. A second victim testified that she met the man when she was 17, and that he recruited her into prostitution. She testified that he posted suggestive and nude photos of her online along with online profiles he had crafted for her on various dating sites. She testified that she was with him for about six months, during which she estimated she earned roughly $50,000 from prostitution. Reports of sex trafficking networks and their related crimes within the city have drawn the attention of local and national law enforcement.
Located just off Interstate 40, Little Rock has been identified by the FBI and local law enforcement as one of the key stops along one of the nation’s most main human trafficking routes. In an effort to identify traffickers and recover victims, Little Rock police have collaborated with agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. An investigation in 2009 resulted in the arrest of two men, who later pled guilty to trafficking minors for the purposes of commercial sex. In May 2012, FBI agents uncovered a nationwide trafficking network when they apprehended a man in Iowa City. The operational headquarters of the traffickers was later revealed to have been Little Rock.
To combat demand, the Little Rock Police Department incorporated the use of street-level reverse stings beginning in 1981. Operations involve deploying an undercover female officer as a decoy. When johns attempt to solicit sex from her, they are quickly apprehended. Once arrested, the men may be required to pay a fine and complete a number of hours of community service. Arrestees’ names and other identifying information are sometimes– but not consistently– publicized in local media outlets.
A recent example occurred in May, 2018, in which nine men were cited in a reverse sting in southwest Little Rock. Undercover female officers working for the city’s vice squad targeted johns who were soliciting sex for $20. The five-hour operation occurred on May 31 in three spots along Baseline Road, including near a car wash at 8020 Baseline Road and a liquor store at 8800 Baseline Road. The men were cited with sexual solicitation and not booked into the county jail, and their names, ages, and home towns were released publicly.
Street-Level Reverse Stings:
- “Police Beat; Prostitution Sting Nets 19 Arrests in 3 Days”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 2 2000.
- “’98 Hopeful for Sheriff Will Face Sex Charge”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 4 2000.
- “Vice Squad Takes On Tough Task with Prostitution Sting”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 24 2005.
- “2 Officers Posing as Hookers Reel in 54”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 1 2008.
- “Police: 42 Men Arrested in Little Rock during 2 Prostitution Stings,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 9 2016.
- http://www.arkansasonline.com/little-rock-police-arrest-9-undercover-prostitution (2018)
Identity Disclosure/”Vice TV”:
- “Plan Aims at Men Who Seeks Paid Sex”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 3 2000.
- “John TV Reality Gets a Little Too Real”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 10 2000.
- “John TV Plan Modified to Get LR’s Go-Ahead; Police Expand Concept for Show to Include Various Misdemeanors”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 12 2001.
- “Denver’s ‘Johns TV’ to Debut Thursday; Tactic May Push Some Prostitutes to Lakewood”, Denver Post, July 22 2002.
- “Lack of Personnel, Money Keeps Screen for Vice TV Blank”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 28 2003.
- “Anti-Crime TV Rated Mediocre”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 28 2004.
Local Sex Trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation, Related CSAM:
- “Two Arrested in LR in Alleged Prostitution Ring Bust”, NBC/KARK-TV 4, February 10 2009.
- “Little Rock Man Sentenced to 7 1/2 Years in Prison for Sex Trafficking and Related Charges”, Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas, January 28 2010.
- “Online Ad Website Accused of Being ‘Hub for Child Prostitution'”, Hindustan Times, August 9 2010.
- “Police Beat; Police Find Illegal Strip Club, Arrest 2”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 15 2010.
- “Mother/Daughter Team Arrested for Promoting Underage Stripping and Prostitution”, ABC/KATV-TV 7, August 16 2010.
- “Johnelle L. Bell, 27, Arrested for Alleged Sex Trafficking Using Backpage.com Ads”, Huffington Post, May 24 2012.
- “Sex Trafficking Ring Used Backpage.com Ads”, Charleston Gazette, May 25 2012.
- “New Jersey Man Convicted on Sex Trafficking Charges”, Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa, November 21 2012.
- “Charge: LR Man Pimp to 2”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 12 2013.
- “Little Rock Man Found Guilty on Federal Sex Trafficking Charge; First Sex Trafficking Case Prosecuted by Eastern District of Arkansas”, Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas, June 7 2013.
- “Arkansas Woman Charged with Human Trafficking,” NBC/WMC-TV 5, May 5 2015.
- “Lincoln Man, Woman Charged for Human Trafficking,” Lincoln Journal-Star, January 4 2016.
- https://www.arkansasonline.com/pimp-36-sentenced-15-years-prison/ (2017)
- https://www.nwaonline.com/little-rock-man-pleads-guilty-to-federal-charge-trafficking-6-year-old/ (2021)
- https://katv.com/latest-sex-trafficking-lawsuit-accuses-arkansas-businessman-of-drugging-women (2021)
- https://www.nwaonline.com/former-boxer-sentenced-to-30-years-for-child/ (2022)
- https://www.nbcmiami.com/sex-trafficking-victims-text-to-dad-leads-to-her-rescue-in-miami-suspects-arrest (2022)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Prostitute Is Killer’s 5th, Police Fear”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 7 1995.
- “LR Strangulations Lead”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 7 1995.
Background on Local Prostitution, Related Crimes (e.g., drug offenses):
- “Judge Banishes 4 Prostitutes,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, August 15 1982.
- “LR Officer Sentenced in Sex Cases”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 26 2004.
- “Police Beat; 13 Women Facing Prostitution Counts”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 17 2006.
- “Police Beat; Prostitution Arrest Caps Bodily Therapy”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 30 2008.
- “Central Arkansas Prostitutes Taking Business to Web”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 11 2008.
- “Six Cited in LR Strip Club Raid”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 4 2011.
- “Walking the PATH”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 14 2012.
- “Little Rock to Get First Shelter for Human Trafficking Victims”, ABC/KATV-TV 7, June 2 2012.
- https://www.thv11.com/two-little-rock-massage-parlors-busted-for-prostitution-in-the-past-two-months (2017)
- http://www.kark.com/little-rock-firefighter-arrested-for-prostitution (2018)
- http://www.arkansasonline.com/2-women-arrested-prostitution-charges (2018)
- https://www.nwaonline.com/former-boxer-sentenced-to-30-years-for-child/ (2022)
- https://www.tampafp.com/man-sentenced-life-in-prison-trafficking-sexual-abuse-6-year-old/ (2022)
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