Shelby County, AL

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

Shelby County is located in central Alabama, and includes parts of the city of Birmingham within its boundaries.  The county’s population is roughly 200,000, and its county seat is the city of Columbiana. Other cities within the county include Alabaster, Pelham, and Chelsea, and parts of Hoover, Leeds, and Vestavia Hills.

Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of Shelby and neighboring counties. For example, in a 2015 report, local police said the crime is happening everywhere, in every community and every city in the region, and noted that websites contain ads for escorts from all over the area, including Birmingham, Homewood, Hoover, Vestavia and other cities and counties. In 2011, three people were arrested on prostitution-related charges in Shelby County, and one of those suspects also faced a charge of human trafficking. A Pelham Police Department incident report showed that human trafficking and promoting prostitution was alleged to have occurred at a mobile home park during April and May of that year.  Other prostitution and child sex trafficking arrests were made within Shelby County in 2015 and 2017. For example, in September 2016 two men were arrested for operating an illegal escort service involving at least one juvenile victim in and around the Alabaster area. One of the men was charged with first-degree human trafficking, second-degree human trafficking, and drug offenses, and could face up to life in prison.  A Shelby County grand jury returned a seven-count indictment that alleged that the man “required multiple females to prostitute themselves in Alabama” over the prior several years.  The investigation was a collaboration of the Pelham Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshals Service, and the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office. In October, 2017 a man was arrested in Pelham as part of an nationwide FBI operation fighting human trafficking.

To combat prostitution and sex trafficking in the area, local law enforcement agencies have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex, which provides the revenue stream driving all commercial sex and trafficking. To identify and apprehend sex buyers driving the local prostitution and sex trafficking markets, street-level reverse stings have been conducted.  For example, in September 2018, eleven men were arrested in the Shelby County area for attempting to pay for sex. The arrests occurred in north Shelby County along the U.S. 280 corridor as part of “Operation Close Out,” an undercover “reverse prostitution” sting carried out by the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force. The identities of the arrested men were included in news releases. In October 2018, the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force carried out a second round of Operation Close Out in northern Shelby County along the U.S. 280 corridor, resulting in nine men arrested and charged with soliciting prostitution.  The suspects were from Mountain Brook, Birmingham, Vestavia Hills, Kentucky and Tennessee.

In May, 2019 an undercover reverse prostitution sting — where law enforcement focuses on apprehending customers — led to the arrests of 13 men in Shelby County, the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force announced.  The operation, titled “Operation Close Out, Round 4″ and conducted by the task force and the Hoover Police Department, was one of four similar stings that also took place in September 2018, October 2018, and February 2019.  All four operations led to 46 arrests.  After the May 2019 reverse sting, the photos and other identifiers for all arrestees were publicly posted. In October, 2019 the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force made 11 arrests during a reverse prostitution sting.  The operation was carried out in North Shelby County in the Riverchase area and concluded a yearlong undercover investigation by SCDETF and the Hoover Police Department.


Key Partners

  • Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force
  • Shelby County Sheriff’s Office
  • Shelby County District Attorney’s Office
  • Alabaster Police Department
  • Pelham Police Department
  • Hoover Police Department
  • U.S. Marshals Service

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Shaming:

Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:

State Alabama
Type County
Population 208713
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