St. Joseph, MO

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

St. Joseph is a city of about 72,000 residents, located in Buchanan County, Missouri (with parts of St. Joseph extending into Andrew County). Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of Buchanan county for decades. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. In 1953, a 6-year-old boy was abducted by a middle-aged woman who claimed to be his aunt. Nine days later, his body was found in the garden of the home of a prostituted woman who conspired with her partner to kidnap the child to extort ransom. More recently, in 2019, eight people were arrested during a police operation targeting prostitution. The St. Joseph Police Department Detective Division conducted the operation to identify victims of human trafficking near a hotel on Frederick Blvd. Eight people were arrested, resulting in six municipal summons and two submissions to the state prosecutor. Six women faced city charges for prostitution, while two other women faces state charges of knowingly infecting someone with HIV while engaged in prostitution. In February 2021, an anti-trafficking operation including the St. Joseph PD led to the recovery of six adults and two children. The Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said that in coordination with several state and federal agencies, law enforcement conducted a successful operation at two truck stops in St. Joseph, which resulted in three arrests and eight victims being recovered; two of the victims were children, a 2-year-old and an infant.

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. To identify and apprehend local sex buyers driving the prostitution and sex trafficking markets, in April 2019 the St. Joseph Police Department (with the assistance of Break Every Chain Coalition) conducted a reverse sting to address the demand for prostitution within the community. The sting operation lasted from 2:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on April 26th. The team received over 80 calls asking for prostitution services; 10 people showed up at arranged locations, and seven people tried to pay for sex acts. Seven men were arrested in the operation conducted in the area of U.S. 169 Highway and I-29. Six men were cited for a city ordinance violation of patronizing prostitution. One additional arrest was made for various charges. In a statement, the police department said they would continue efforts to address crimes with potential implications of human trafficking. The names of the people arrested were not included in news releases.

Key Partners

  • St. Joseph Police Department
  • Break Every Chain Coalition
  • Truckers Against Trafficking
  • Missouri Trucking Association
  • St. Joseph County Domestic And Sexual Abuse Services
State Missouri
Type City
Population 71602
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