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Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky, with approximately 619,000 residents. Prostitution has been a well-documented problem in the city for decades, and the area is known by federal and state investigators to be on domestic sex trafficking circuits. On at least one occasion, federal prosecutors discovered a human trafficking and prostitution ring operating in Louisville with ties to several other cities including Knoxville, Morristown, Johnson City, and Nashville. Prostitution-related homicides and serial murders have also occurred in the community. Commercial sex- and drug-related arrests have also at times overlapped, as confirmed in an August 2011 arrest of a couple for the sex trafficking of a minor in exchange for heroin. In May 2016, a grand jury indicted a 69 year old man who had served as a Franklin County constable from 2011 to 2014 and had sex trafficked an eighth-grade cheerleader while he was a high school football coach and forced her into prostitution over at least 5 years. She “worked” for him two days each week, being sexually abused by 15 to 20 men per day, and a condition of her “employment” was providing the man free access to sexually abuse her any time he wanted. Multiple additional women were also abused in the same way. In 2020, the defendant reached a plea agreement and was required to donate $5,000 to Women of the Well Ministry in Louisville at the orders of the Franklin County Circuit Court. He was sentenced to five years of supervised probation after pleading guilty in October to promoting prostitution, a Class D felony, and unlawful imprisonment and three counts of criminal attempt to impersonate a peace officer, both Class A misdemeanors.
Prostitution has become increasingly visible in the city in recent years, compelling the Louisville Metro Police Department to incorporate several tactics to identify and arrest sex buyers. To this end, the LMPD has conducted a series of successful web-based reverse stings (by posting decoy advertisements on sites like Craigslist) and street-level reverse stings (using an undercover female officer as a street-prostitution decoy), at times netting upwards of 20 sex buyers in a single operation. Although the LMPD has not released the names and identities of offenders to the media, police continue to emphasize the importance of community vigilance in discussions with local news outlets. Following a street-level reversal in November 2014, for example, a LMPD representative commented:
“I want the Johns or the customers to know that if you come to Old Louisville to try to pick up a prostitute, there’s a good chance it may be a police officer and you’re going to go to jail for that. If we make it so that the Johns are scared to come into a particular area to try and purchase a prostitute, then we have also served our mission.”
In May 2018, during Kentucky Derby week, a web-based reverse sting in Louisville targeted those who sought to buy sex with children. Undercover officers posted ads online, an undercover officer posed as an underage girl and arranged to engage in sexual acts in exchange for money with the suspects individually. Nearly 400 emails, texts or phone calls were received in response to those two ads, and police had communication with 265 individuals. Nine men made arrangements to meet at a hotel on Hurstbourne and Bluegrass parkways, and upon arrival each was arrested and then charged with human trafficking.
In February, 2019, LMPD conducted a sting during Louisville’s annual farm machinery show. The SVU posted an ad of a female undercover officer on different social media sites (including Call Escorts, Facebook and Instagram). Within an hour, they received 200 calls, and told sex buyers to meet them at an undisclosed hotel. LMPD arresting 17 people, ages 19 to 74.
Not all arrests of sex buyers are the result of stings using police decoys; some are the product of investigation of allegations of offenses against real victims. For example, in 2016, a Louisville man was charged with promoting prostitution with a minor after he was pulled over for having a front headlight out. When the officer approached, he saw three people inside, and an arrest report states one of the passengers was partially naked and lied about her age to the officer. Both passengers were picked up by the suspect in West Louisville and said they were out trying to “make a few dollars with the suspect.”
In January, 2022, a man who called police saying he had been robbed found himself under arrest for promoting human trafficking of a person under 18 and promoting prostitution. The arrest report said that Louisville Metro police were dispatched to the 5300 block of Rangeland Road after the man reported he had been robbed. When officers arrived, the man pointed to a 16-year-old girl and said she had taken his money. After giving the girl her Miranda rights, the report says she told police that the man had used an app to recruit her and messaged her to perform sexual acts. After agreeing to meet, the suspect picked up the girl at a location on Robinwood Road and took her to the Rangeland Road address. He was released from custody and scheduled to be arraigned at the Hall of Justice. The man at the time was an employee of Louisville Metro Public Works; a city spokesperson said he was relieved of his duties and suspended pending investigation.
Street-Level Reverse Stings:
- “Wiring of Juvenile Prompts Charges of Police Child Abuse”, Middlesboro Daily News, September 17 1984.
- “Police Sting Nets Would-Be Customers”, NBC/WAVE-TV 3, June 13 2003.
- “Fake Cop Busted by Police”, NBC/WAVE-TV 3, July 1 2009.
- “Seven Arrested in LMPD Prostitution Sting”, NBC/WAVE-TV 3, April 16 2010.
- “Metro Police Run Prostitution Sting in Old Louisville,” FOX/WDRB-TV 41, October 30 2014.
- “Prostitution Sting on Dixie Highway Busts 27 Men,” NBC/WAVE-TV 3, August 25 2015.
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Police: 27 Men Arrested After Responding to Sex Ads”, Kentucky New Era, February 19 2008.
- “VIDEO: Police Use Craigslist for Prostitution Bust”, CBS/WLKY-TV 32, February 19 2008.
- “5 People Face Prostitution Charges After Bust Across the Metro”, ABC/WHAS-TV 11, March 26 2010.
- http://www.wlky.com/lmpd-makes-multiple-arrests-during-human-trafficking-sting (2018)
- http://www.wdrb.com/story/9-people-charged-in-human-trafficking-sting-on-kentucky-derby-weekend-including-a-local-doctor (2018)
Arrest of Sex Buyer; Disclosure of Identities:
- https://www.wdrb.com/louisville-man-charged-with-promoting-prostitution-with-a-minor (2016)
- https://www.wave3.com/metro-employee-arrested-human-trafficking-prostitution/ (2022)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “15-Year-Old Says She Was Kidnapped, NBC/WAVE-TV 3, November 23 2004.
- “An Inside Look at Teens and Prostitution in Louisville”, ABC/WHAS-TV 11, May 13 2010.
- “Feds Bust Alleged Multi-State Prostitution Ring”, ABC/WHAS-TV 11, May 10 2011.
- “Police: 2 Charged After Giving Teen Heroin, Coercing Her into Prostitution”, ABC/WHAS-TV 11, August 18 2011.
- “Two Accused of Prostituting Teen”, Louisville Courier-Journal, August 19 2011.
- “Police Crack Down on Human Trafficking in Louisville”, FOX/WDRB-TV 41, April 26 2012.
- “Illegal Immigrant Pleads Guilty to Human Trafficking”, NBC/WAVE-TV 3, December 19 2012.
- “Metro Couple Charged in Human Trafficking Investigation”, NBC/WAVE-TV 3, April 25 2013.
- “LMPD: Prostitution Triples, Sex Trafficking a Concern at Derby Time”, ABC/WHAS-TV 11, April 29 2013.
- “Police: Man Involved in Human Trafficking and Promoting Prostitution”, NBC/WAVE-TV 3, August 8 2013.
- “Man Charged with Human Trafficking; Promoting Prostitution of 17-Year-Old”, NBC/WAVE-TV 3, August 30 2013.
- “Trio Accused of Running Teen Prostitution Ring Out of Massage Parlor”, NBC/WCSH-TV 6, September 6 2013.
- “FBI: Cincinnati Police Investigated Man 1 Year before He Was Busted for Locking Sex Slaves in Home,” ABC/WCPO-TV 11, November 15 2014.
- “Man Pleads Guilty to Sex Trafficking, Locking Women in Cincinnati Home,” ABC/WHAS-TV 11, November 16 2014.
- “Louisville Pimp Gets 51 Months on Prostitution Charges,” Louisville Courier-Journal, June 16 2015.
- “Lexington, Kentucky Woman and Clarksville, Tennessee Man Charged with Sex Trafficking of Louisville, Kentucky Minor,” Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky, September 2 2015.
- “Jury Convicts Memphis Man for Sex Trafficking of Minors,” Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana, February 25 2016.
- https://www.wbko.com/Louisville-man-sentenced-in-sex-trafficking-case (2017)
- https://www.louisville.com/sold-derby-sex-trafficking-louisville (2019)
- https://www.state-journal.com/court-date-set-for-prostitution-kidnapping-cases-against-former-constable (2019)
- https://www.state-journal.com/banta-sentenced-to-probation-for-promoting-prostitution-impersonating-an-officer (2020)
- https://www.courier-journal.com/three-louisville-men-federall-charged-carjacking-child-pornography-case (2021)
- https://www.msn.com/louisville-nonprofit-expands-into-downtown-to-help-more-victims-of-human-trafficking (2022)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Prostitution”, Louisville Courier-Journal, May 27 1894.
- “Veteran Trio Checks on Prostitution”, Toledo Blade, December 10 1969.
- “Louisville Will End Vice Squad”, Middlesboro Daily News, December 29 1970.
- “Louisville Awaits Vice Inquiries Set Off by ‘Open City’ TV Show”, New York Times, March 7 1971.
- “Massage Parlors in Louisville Probed”, Harlan Daily Enterprise, May 24 1979.
- “Prostitution”, Kentucky New Era, November 29 1979.
- “Little Red Book Causes Concern to Customers”, Rochester Sentinel, March 19 1981.
- “Police Say Louisville Prostitution Ring Was One of Nation’s Most Organized”, Bowling Green Daily News, March 20 1981.
- “Proposal Criticized”, Harlan Daily Enterprise, November 10 1982.
- “Vice Officers Fight Illegal Underside of Derby Activity”, Lexington Herald Leader, May 9 1983.
- “IRS Uncovers Prostitution Scam; Louisville Escort Service Among Those Agents Raid”, Lexington Herald Leader, April 7 1990.
- “Louisville Arrests Break Crime Group”, Kentucky New Era, August 8 1991.
- “Police Say Adult Clubs Promoted Prostitution, Arrests Made”, NBC/WAVE-TV 3, April 16 2004.
- “Police Take Aim at Parlor Prostitution”, Louisville Courier-Journal, July 11 2004.
- “Readers’ Forum”, Louisville Courier-Journal, July 13 2004.
- “Massage-Parlor Investigation Generates 105 Indictments”, Louisville Courier-Journal, December 17 2004.
- “Prostitutes Often Return to Streets Days After Being Arrested”, NBC/WAVE-TV 3, February 3 2005.
- “Police Investigate Popular Online Site as Part of Prostitution Sting”, NBC/WAVE-TV 3, November 14 2007.
- “Queen for an Hour: Can You Get a High-Class Escort in Louisville? Try Looking Online”, LEO Weekly, March 18 2008.
- “Louisville Neighborhood Concerned About Growing Prostitution Problem”, NBC/WAVE-TV 3, April 1 2010.
- “SWAT Raid Lawsuit Against LMPD”, ABC/WHAS-TV 11, June 8 2010.
- “Woman Police Say Is an HIV Infected Prostitute Indicted on Felony Charges”, ABC/WHAS-TV 11, August 6 2010.
- “Man & Woman Charged with Prostitution; Child Found in Front of Hot Truck”, NBC/WAVE-TV 3, September 11 2013.
- “Sex-Trafficking Victims Find Safe Haven,” Louisville Courier-Journal, December 29 2015.
- http://www.fox10tv.com/woman-infected-with-hiv-arrested-again-for-prostitution (2016)
- http://www.wave3.com/police-seize-long-client-list-from-business-in-prostitution-bust (2018)
- http://www.wlky.com/louisville-man-charged-with-human-trafficking-promoting-prostitution/ (2018)
- http://www.bereaonline.com/beshear-louisville-man-arrested-charged-with-human-trafficking-minors-online/ (2018)
- http://www.wave3.com/louisville-man-is-3rd-arrested-in-human-trafficking-of-teen-girls (2018)
- https://www.whas11.com/louisville-woman-accused-of-trafficking-two-teenagers (2018)
- https://www.whas11.com/the-vault-open-city-louisville-prostitution-gambling-laws (2021)
- https://www.whas11.com/louisvilles-open-city-investigation-exposed-gambling-prostitution (2021)
- https://www.whas11.com//metro-council-ordinance-nuisance-properties-louisville-boones-kentucky (2022)
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area: