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Rolla is a city in, and the county seat of, Phelps County, Missouri. Its population is approximately 20,000, and it is located approximately midway between St. Louis and Springfield, along I-44. Prostitution activity in the city has been well-documented, and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking.
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. Demand reduction tactics used in the town include the arrest of sex buyers and the public disclosure of their identities, and web-based reverse stings. In December, 2018, a man faced felony charges after harassing local women with sexual solicitations. He was charged with two counts of third-degree promoting prostitution and one count of first-degree harassment. The case’s probable cause report stated that the man approached two women in Rolla with offers to pay them for sexual favors. It details in both cases the women were approached on the street and refused the solicitations. In one instance, the man continued to follow a woman to her vehicle after he was denied.
In January, 2020, a Fort Leonard Wood drill sergeant was charged with attempting to have paid sexual abuse of an underage girl. The man was arrested and charged with attempted enticement of a child and promoting prostitution. The man began an internet conversation with an undercover officer of the South-Central Missouri Computer Crimes Task Force who he thought was a 15-year-old girl. The conversation quickly escalated with the man allegedly asking the girl to meet him in Rolla later that evening. He was arrested at their designated meeting spot. Officers alleged that at the time of the arrest, they found corroborating evidence on his phone and $200 in cash, which he’d offered to the alleged victim in exchange for sex. The man pleaded guilty in September, 2020 to one count of patronizing prostitution with a victim 14 years old or younger, and was sentenced to 5 years supervised probation.
- Rolla Police Department
- South Central Drug Task Force
Web Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
- http://www.kjluradio.com/flw-drill-sergeant-busted-in-undercover-investigation (2020)
- https://abcstlouis.com/drill-sergeant-charged-with-child-enticement-promoting-prostitution (2020)
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- https://krcgtv.com/woman-arrested-for-prostitution-in-rolla (2009)
- https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/2-arrests-in-human-trafficking-sting-were-line-3-workers (2021)