Louisville, KY

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Cameras
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
Letters
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

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.

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Arrest of Sex Buyer; Disclosure of Identities:

Cameras:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Kentucky
Type City
Population 618733
Location
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