Shawnee County, KS

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

Shawnee County is located in Northeast Kansas, in the central United States with a population of approximately 179,000 residents, making it the third-most populous county in Kansas. Its most populous city and county seat, Topeka, is the also state capital. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified by law enforcement as problems in the county. This activity and its ancillary crimes has resulted in complaints to local law enforcement from residents and businesses. For example, in the early 1980s, the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office conducted a series of raids at local massage and rap parlors in the county, arresting prostituted women. These operations were done in response to complaints from county residents about the rapid growth in the local commercial sex market. More recently, the county has reported experiencing an increase in child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation cases.

In response to such concerns, police have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex. Since 1985, the Topeka Police Department has conducted reverse stings. For example, in August 2012, the Topeka Police Department conducted a web-based reverse sting, which resulted in twelve arrests. In 2013, a former Highland Park High School assistant principal charged with patronizing a prostitute reached a diversion agreement with the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office. The man had been arrested in the August 2012 reverse sting. The school board fired the assistant principal after his arrest. A diversion agreement required him to take “education classes,” pay restitution and do community service for a period of time. Successful completion will result in his case being dismissed, and the erasure of having a criminal record.

In 2019, a Florida man was charged after he traveled to Topeka to sexually exploit a 16-year-old girl in exchange for money. Topeka Police, Homeland Security, FBI, and KBI joined forces in human trafficking investigation that resulted in the arrest. The man was charged with Attempted Aggravated Human Trafficking and Attempted Commercial Exploitation of a Child, and his bond was set at $250,000.

Public Education is also a demand reduction tactic that has been implemented in the county. For example, in 1983, the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office began posting advertisements in the classified sections of local newspapers in effort to warn potential sex buyers about the legal consequences of buying sex in the county. The ads contained a warning about purchasing commercial sex and the potential consequences if apprehended by police. The ads were run in the classified sections next to the rap and massage parlor ads.

More recent examples of public education as a demand reduction tactic have been reported. For example, in July 2018, the Kansas Attorney General announced a new awareness campaign in Kansas is aimed at cutting the demand for prostitution as a way to fight sex trafficking. The campaign involves state agencies and local advocacy groups teaming up to push the “Demand an End” initiative, a public awareness campaign as a partner to bring attention to those who purchase sex in our communities, especially with minors started by Street Grace. The campaign intends to promote a culture where buying sex is unacceptable. The Shawnee County Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition has partnered with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office in their efforts to “Demand an End” to commercial sex in the state of Kansas.

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Employment Loss, John School, Identity Disclosure:

Proposed “John TV,” Identity Disclosure:

Public Education:

Neighborhood Action:

Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaging in the Commercial Sex:

Background on Local Prostitution:

State Kansas
Type County
Population 178909
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