Odessa, TX

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

Odessa is a town of approximately 113,000 residents located in Ector County, West Texas, near Midland along Interstate 20.  The city is not known for substantial street prostitution, but there have been numerous complaints and reports of indoor prostitution for decades, and cases of children present in residences where prostitution occurred (as well as having drugs and weapons present).  For example, in October 2017 a woman has been charged after she brought an infant to a “date” arranged during a Backpage prostitution sting. During the sting, an Odessa police officer made contact with a woman who posted an advertisement on the website.  The suspect agreed to exchange sex for money, and arrived at the location with a 1-month-old child in the backseat of her vehicle; she was then arrested and charged with endangering a child, prostitution and possession of marijuana. Among the more serious problems associated with prostitution in Odessa the the targeting of prostituted women by a serial killer. Child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child prostitution” in state legal codes) related to sex trafficking events have also been documented.  For example, in 2012, a jury convicted a man of sex trafficking of children and promotion of a business involving prostitution, and his codefendant was convicted of possession of “child pornography” and coercion of a minor. One offender bought a bus ticket for the girl to visit him in Amarillo. He then drove her to Odessa, used the Internet to advertise sex for sale and forced her to have intercourse with an unknown man. Rounds and the girl were found during a traffic stop in Eden while driving back to Houston.

A 2004  case involved an effort to address the customers of prostitution, but not through traditional street or web-based reverse stings.  Instead, police leveraged a client list for a prostitution business operating out of a massage therapy business in the town.  After an investigation and a take-down of the business, a client list was discovered with over 60 individuals identified.  While it is not unusual to discover client lists in raided brothels, the lists often are not used by law enforcement since they alone constitute insufficient evidence that sex being exchanged directly for money actually occurred.  In this case, the list is reportedly supplemented by surveillance of the brothel and other intelligence from the investigation, including interview disclosures about the prostitution activity. The client list was released to the public and 68 men were arrested. A news report in May, 2013, the Midland County Sheriff alluded to their conducting reverse stings in Odessa:  “”If anyone tries to get a prostitute, they may walk into a room full of law enforcement…”  [NewsWest9.com, May 14, 2013]

A reverse sting operation focusing on predators seeking to buy sex with children was conducted in Odessa and Midland, Texas in February of 2018.  The reverse sting component was Phase 1 of a three-phase prostitution and sex trafficking operation resulting in 62 total arrests.  “Operation Gauntlet” used online advertisement postings, texting and phone calls during three phases. In all, undercover officials received 12,329 total incoming messages and “chatted” with 1,361 unique phone numbers.  The operation ran from Feb. 16 to March 3 and included local, state and federal agencies. Among those assisting were the Midland County District Attorney’s Office, Midland Police Department, Midland Fire Department and Midland County Sheriff’s Office. Seven men were arrested on second-degree felony charges of online solicitation of a minor under 14 years of age were, and their identities were publicly released.  The arrests came during the Phase One two-day child predator sting. Undercover “chatters” posted online advertisements and communicated while posing as 13-year-old females. They responded to 6,095 incoming messages from 330 unique phone numbers during that part of the operation, according to the press release.  The Subsequent phases two and three also involved online postings and undercover phone communication.

We know of a few other cases where client lists have been  used to arrest sex buyers.  In Vero Beach, Florida, a brothel was investigated in 2008 and 35 men were identified and arrested, through surveillance evidence combined with brothel records and other sources of intelligence.   In October, 2012, a prostitution operation connected to a dance studio was revealed in Kennebunk, Maine, and a client list with over 100 names was discovered.  Beginning October 15, 2012, the names began being released in batches, and the men summoned to appear at future court dates.

Web-based reverse stings have also occurred in the community.  For example, in January, 2022, several law enforcement agencies collaborated to conduct multiple adult prostitution operations and online solicitation of minor operations throughout the West Texas Region. Officials said the goal of the operations was to target individuals seeking to exploit and victimize trafficking victims, as well as to identify and apprehend individuals suspected to be involved in human trafficking by using various websites to solicit sexual acts from minors. As a result of these operations, thirty-five (35) suspects were arrested and faced charges. The identities of the 35 arrested individuals were public released, and aw enforcement officials said Special Agents were also able to identify and open investigations into additional suspects.  Agencies collaborating on the investigations included: The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Criminal Investigations Division (CID); Texas Highway Patrol; Homeland Security Investigations; El Paso Police Department; Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission; Fort Bliss Army CID; Odessa Police Department; Reeves County Sheriff’s Office, and Texas DPS Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Division. In January, 2023, a similar operation also led to the arrest of eight sex buyers.

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the county. For example, in March, 2017, a Permian High School track coach and health teacher resigned as a consequence of his arrest in Midland on charges of solicitation, a class B misdemeanor, and manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance, a first-degree felony. The Ector County Independent School District Public Information Officer said the sex buyer had been with the district since the 1991-92 school year. He had initially been placed on paid administrative leave after being arrested in January, 2017. Ector County ISD officials said the man submitted his resignation and it became effective come March 31st. He was arrested in an undercover prostitution sting in which he tried trading morphine for sex with an undercover police officer.

Key Partners

  • Odessa Police Department

Key Sources

Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:

Massage Parlor Client List Arrests, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:

Background on Prostitution and Related Crime, CSAM, Violence in the Area:

Prostitution-Related Child Endangerment:

State Texas
Type City
Population 112584
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