Missoula, MT

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

Missoula is the second-largest city in the U.S. state of Montana with a population of approximately 75,000 residents. It is the largest city and county seat of Missoula County, MT. Cases of prostitution date back to at least 1917, when the local paper reported that the red light district “ceased to exist” after the new mayor announced he would enforce laws against prostitution, resulting in the majority of the town’s prostituted women packing their bags. The local sex trade has produced numerous complaints from community members to police for decades. Reports of targeted homicide against prostituted women have also been documented in the city and greater county area. Among the more serious issues surrounding the area’s commercial sex market are child sex trafficking and the related production or distribution of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM). For example, in 2017, a 22-year-old man pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of a minor and racketeering after a 17-year-old girl told police he posted ads promoting commercial sex with her on a prostitution website.

Web-based operations targeting individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money have also been conducted. After the Missoula County Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force conducted a successful web-based reverse sting where seven people were arrested, the Task Force conducted a similar sting with the support of the Missoula Police Department and Flathead County Sheriff’s Office. This one resulted in the arrest of six male sex buyers. Although the details of the operation were not immediately disclosed, members of the local media reported that at least one sex buyer was charged with “felony attempted child prostitution after he allegedly tried to set up a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old girl through a detective posing as her mother.”

Sex buyers have also been apprehended through alternative investigations and residential reports to local law enforcement. In 2010, city officials worked with teenage survivors of a sex trafficking ring to identify the male sex buyers responsible for their exploitation. 12 male sex buyers were arrested and charged with solicitation as a result. According to media reports at the time, “nearly all appeared in Missoula County Justice Court and pleaded guilty or no contest to being clients of prostitution” and were given a “six-month suspended sentences and fines and fees of $635.” Their identities were also publicized.

Key Partners

Key Sources

Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:

Street-Level Reverse Stings, Cameras, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Public Education:

Operation Cross Country:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Montana
Type City
Population 74822
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