Mason City is a city of approximately 28,000 residents, located in north-central Iowa’s Cerro Gordo County, about 80 miles northwest of Waterloo. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. For example, in 2015 and 2018, a series of prostitution operations were prompted by community complaints, and resulted in numerous arrests in street-level stings and in investigations of storefront brothels.
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. In their efforts to reduce prostitution locally, local law enforcement have conducted at least one reverse sting. In June 2015, the Mason City Police Department and Iowa Department of Public Safety initiated a “dual” sting targeting both sex buyers and individuals offering acts of prostitution. Seven local residents were arrested as a result, five of whom were identified as attempted sex buyers. One of the johns arrested was reported to be a Tier 3 registered sex offender. Although logistical details about the investigation were not disclosed, media outlets reported that each of the arrestees were apprehended after allegedly “either offering to purchase a sex act or offering to sell their services in a sex act with an undercover officer.” All seven arrestees’ identities, including their mugshots, were publicized in press.
In December, 2020, a man was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to assault with intent to commit sex abuse and prostitution. The man had paid a 16-year-old $50 for sex and the victim withdrew consent during the incident. He was sentenced to prison for up to five years, must pay a $250 civil penalty, and sign up with the Iowa Sex Offender Registry.
The Mason City City Council has considered the establishment of an auto seizure ordinance that would enable law enforcement to seize the vehicles of individuals charged with a variety of offenses, including solicitation. If implemented, the ordinance would require all violators to pay a fine of $250 to retrieve their vehicle.
- Mason City Police Department
- Iowa Department of Public Safety
- Mason City City Council
- North Central Iowa Narcotics Task Force
- Reverse Stings with Shaming:
- https://www.facebook.com/mcglobegazette/posts/seven-arrested-in-mason-city-prostitution-sting (2015)
- “Area Residents among 7 Arrested in Mason City Prostitution Sting,” Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, June 19 2015.
- “Extension Official, Six Others, Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” Mason City Globe Gazette, June 19 2015.
- “Prostitution Bust Leads to Multiple Arrests,” CBS/KIMT-TV 3, June 19 2015.
- “Two Titonka Men Arrested in Sting; Undercover Operation Leads to Seven Arrests,” Algona Upper Des Moines, June 25 2015.
- “Hall Given Deferred Judgment in Prostitution Case,” Mason City Globe Gazette, July 20 2015.
- https://www.kimt.com/content/news/Mason-City-man-sent-to-prison-for-prostitution (2020)
- Proposed Auto Seizure:
- “City to Consider Law that Could Impound Drivers’ Vehicles,” Mason City Globe Gazette, April 3 2015.
- “Council Postpones Action on Vehicle Impoundments,” Mason City Globe Gazette, April 7 2015.
- “Editorial: Council Right to Delay Action on Impoundments,” Mason City Globe Gazette, April 12 2015.
- “Lashbrook: No Need for Ordinance Impounding Vehicles,” Mason City Globe Gazette, April 29 2015.
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Two Deny Guilt in ‘Slave’ Case,” Milwaukee Journal, February 28 1957.
- “Two Arrested in Investigation of Prostitution Ring,” Mason City Globe Gazette, June 27 2014.
- https://globegazette.com/crime-and-courts/mason-city-massage-worker-charged-with-prostitution (2016)
- http://www.kimt.com/content/news/Prostitution-arrest-in-Mason-City- (2018)
- https://globegazette.com/news/police-woman-charged-with-prostitution-in-mason-city-fort-madison (2018)
- https://www.pencitycurrent.com/2018/04/20/woman-charged-with-prostitution-grabbed-in-mason-city/ (2018)