Madison County, NC

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

Madison County is a located in North Carolina, within the Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area. It has a population of about 22,000, and the county seat is the town of Marshall, which has a population of about 900.  Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented within the county and throughout the Asheville metro region.  This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking. For example, in 2017, an undercover operation by the Madison County Sheriff’s Office and Homeland Security officers arrested 16 suspects facing a total of 53 charges ranging from prostitution to felony drug possession. The investigation started after local law enforcement officers received multiple calls from neighbors and family members.  Working with Homeland Security, Madison County Sheriff’s Office investigators began using websites like and to research potential perpetrators, and secured a location in a remote section of Mars Hill to bring in people contacted on the websites. Once they arrived at the arranged site, an undercover law enforcement officer would speak with the suspect to gather evidence that could help prove sex-for-money exchange allegations. Once reaching that threshold, the decoy would call out a code phrase and a special response team would emerge from the basement to make arrests.

Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. For example, in May, 2019, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations arrested 31 people during an undercover operation focused on illegal drugs and prostitution. The operation targeted individuals distributing illicit drugs and people involved in prostitution in Madison County. Seven of the men were arrested for “aiding and abetting prostitution.”  During the operation, the sheriff’s office also recovered a gun, weapons of mass destruction, numerous controlled substances and arrests on charges including child abuse and prostitution.  The identities of the arrested individuals were publicly disclosed.


Key Partners

  • Madison County Sheriff’s Office
  • Homeland Security Investigations

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Shaming:

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 North Carolina
Type County
Population 21746
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