Mason City, IA

Tactics Used

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

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.

Key Partners

  • Mason City Police Department
  • Iowa Department of Public Safety
  • Mason City City Council
  • North Central Iowa Narcotics Task Force

Key Sources

State Iowa
Type City
Population 27823
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