Shelby County, AL

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

Shelby County is located in central Alabama, and includes parts of the city of Birmingham within its boundaries. The county’s population is roughly 227,000, 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 county and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of the county. For example, in a 2015 report, local police said the crime was happening everywhere, in every community and every city in the region, and noted that websites contained 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 a 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 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 (SCDETF) carried out a second round of Operation Close Out in northern Shelby County along the U.S. 280 corridor, resulting in nine men being arrested and charged with soliciting prostitution. The suspects were from Mountain Brook, Birmingham, Vestavia Hills, and Kentucky and Tennessee.

In May 2019, an undercover reverse prostitution sting — where law enforcement focused on apprehending sex buyers — led to the arrests of 13 men in Shelby County. The operation, called “Operation Close Out, Round 4,″ was conducted by the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force and the Hoover Police Department and 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.

In February 2021, 15 people were arrested in reverse sting conducted by the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force, which they called the first phase of “Operation Intercept.” The operation was intended to be a continuation of the previous operations that took place in October 2019, May 2019, February 2019, October 2018, and September 2018, which resulted in a total of 57 offenders being arrested in connection with prostitution and sex trafficking. SCDETF, in partnership with the Hoover Police Department, conducted this operation in North Shelby County in the Riverchase area. Names and identifiers of the 15 arrestees were released to the press. Major Clay Hammac of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office explained:

“The purpose of these operations is to aggressively pursue patrons of the sex-trafficking industry, which is directly connected to human trafficking. Furthermore, law enforcement wishes to demonstrate a zero-tolerance for criminal solicitation and attack the demand for these type enterprises.”

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, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:

State Alabama
Type County
Population 226902
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