Merrillville is a city of approximately 36,000 residents, located near in Lake County in northwest Indiana, near Gary. Prostitution has been reported in the city, occurring both at street-level and within certain businesses (such as massage parlors).
In May 2011, Merrillville drew media attention when “Indiana federal prosecutors alleged that three brothers in Indiana and Illinois helped smuggle women into the country from Mexico and Central America, then told them they needed to pay off the cost of getting them into America by working for them. Those involved in the ring would transfer women from brothel to brothel on a near-weekly basis”, using Merrillville as their primary “transfer point.”
In an effort to crack down on the area’s commercial sex market, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department has conducted at least one reverse sting in the city. The operation, conducted in September 2013, was led by detectives from the LCSD’s Children and Family Unit and attempted to identify johns soliciting sex online and at street-level. First, LCSD detectives placed a decoy advertisement on Craigslist. Then, a female undercover LCSD officer posed as a prostituted woman for several hours on a city block known for commercial sex sales. Three johns were arrested as a result of the operation; news reports did not clarify, however, whether the individuals were identified after they responded to the web posting or if they merely approached the officer on the street. All three arrestees’ names and mugshots were released to the public.
- Web-Based Reverse Stings and Shaming:
- Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Escort Service Stung”, Times of Northwest Indiana, September 26 1995.
- “M’ville Cops Remember Investigation”, Times of Northwest Indiana, June 2 1996.
- “Old Job, New Tricks”, Times of Northwest Indiana, October 14 2007.
- “2 Arrested in a Sting at Hotels”, Times of Northwest Indiana, November 10 2009.
- “Massage Parlor Employee Arrested”, Times of Northwest Indiana, March 19 2010.
- “Merrillville Revokes Massage Parlor’s Business License”, Times of Northwest Indiana, October 1 2010.
- “Women Arrested in Prostitution Sting in M’ville”, Times of Northwest Indiana, February 28 2013.
- “Alleged Prostitution Ring Operated Near NW Ind. High School: Authorities”, NBC/WMAQ-TV 5, February 4 2014.