Madison County, IL

Tactics Used

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

Madison County is a county of approximately 260,000 residents in southwestern Illinois, right across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. Its county seat is Edwardsville, and the largest city is Granite City. The city of Alton in Madison County has been known to use demand-reduction tactics frequently to fight prostitution. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity has been documented locally since at least the early 1990s. Cases of assaults on individuals in prostitution and the killing of sex buyers have also been reported.

Among their efforts to reduce commercial sex sales and related crimes, the Alton Police Department (APD) has conducted reverse stings targeting individuals attempting to purchase sex, sometimes with the assistance of county officials. The APD has conducted such stings at street level since at least 2003, if not earlier. Officers and city officials have reported to local media that investigations have, at times, been launched in response to complaints from residents and businesses.

In June 2003, a Madison County grand jury indicted 35 people on prostitution charges in Alton and Granite City. The indictments included 10 women who were charged with prostitution and 20 male sex buyers who were charged with solicitation of a sexual act. The undercover investigation was run by the Alton and Granite City police departments in conjunction with the Madison County State’s Attorney’s office. The “Weed and Seed” program, with funding provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, focused on prostitution-related offenses in various neighborhoods in Alton and Granite City. The names, ages, and hometowns of those arrested were also released to the press.

In 2007, APD officers conducted a web-based reverse sting, they did this by creating a decoy advertisement on a website known for prostitution solicitation. They then, placed a female undercover officer and support team in a local hotel to arrest sex buyers who responded to the listing and arranged to meet the decoy. Similarly, in January 2016, the APD intercepted seven sex buyers after the men responded to a decoy web listing placed by law enforcement. Soon after their arrests, the offenders’ names, ages, hometowns, and arrest photos were released to the public and carried in the Alton Telegraph.

In June 2020, fourteen people were arrested in Madison County after a web-based sting, targeting online predators, who were caught trying to engage in sex with minors. The two-day operation was led by the FBI-Springfield Division and involved multiple federal and state law enforcement agencies, including the FBI St. Louis Division, U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Belleville Police Department, Collinsville Police Department, Edwardsville Police Department, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Illinois State Police, Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville Police Department, St. Louis County Police Department, Swansea Police Department, and U.S. Secret Service. Undercover agents, pretending to be minors, were contacted by the defendants on various online texting, social media, and message board platforms and apps. The defendants engaged in sexually explicit discussions with the undercover agents and then arrived at a residence intending to engage in sexual acts with minors, which is where they were arrested. Some (although not all) of the people arrested in this sting offered to pay money to engage in sexual activity with a minor. In addition, some of the defendants propositioned the undercover agents to send them sexually explicit photos or traveled across state lines for the purpose of illicit sexual activity with a minor. The men’s charges included attempted enticement of a minor, interstate travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct, attempted production of child pornography (i.e., child sexual abuse material), and attempted sex trafficking of a child. The names and ages of the fourteen defendants were released to the public.

Key Partners

  • Madison County Sheriff’s Office
  • Granite City Police Department
  • Alton Police Department
  • Madison County State’s Attorney’s office
  • FBI
  • U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations
  • Belleville Police Department
  • Collinsville Police Department
  • Edwardsville Police Department
  • Franklin County Sheriff’s Office
  • Illinois State Police
  • Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville Police Department
  • St. Louis County Police Department
  • Swansea Police Department
  • U.S. Secret Service
State Illinois
Type County
Population 264776
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