Sullivan County, TN

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

Sullivan County is a county of about 158,000 residents in northeastern Tennessee, on the border with Virginia. Its county seat is Blountville. Prostitution activity and drug use have been well-documented in the county. For example, in August 2015, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office arrested five women and a man on prostitution charges after conducting an online sting.

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. In addition to the reverse stings conducted locally in Bristol and Kingsport, there have also been web-based reverse stings targeting demand conducted on the county level. In November 2021, a two-day joint undercover operation conducted by the TBI Human Trafficking Unit Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, the Office of the 2nd District Attorney General, and Homeland Security Investigations resulted in the arrest of four men. Law enforcement placed several decoy advertisements on websites known for prostitution in an effort to identify those seeking to engage in commercial sex acts with minors. Four men were arrested on charges of trafficking for a commercial sex act, patronizing prostitution from a minor, and exploitation of a minor. They were booked into the Sullivan County Jail and their identities were released to the press. The Sullivan County operation was the twelfth one conducted by the TBI Human Trafficking Unit in partnership with local law enforcement agencies across the state in 2021. In March, 2023, the Bristol Police Department, Tennessee Police Department (BTPD) and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), conducted a joint operation resulting in the arrested of 11 men who allegedly sought illicit sex from minors. On March 9, authorities reportedly placed several decoy advertisements on websites known to be linked to prostitution and commercial sex cases. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were publicly disclosed.

Employment loss is also a consequence of sex buying that has occurred in the county. In September 2016, a part-time courthouse security officer for Sullivan County was fired following his arrest for soliciting sex acts in Bristol, Virginia. The man was one of six people arrested and charged in a prostitution sting operation involving an undercover female police officer and an undercover male officer in the nearby city. The man’s identity was released to the press. He was serving in a part-time capacity at the courthouse after retiring as a full-time deputy for the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office.

Key Partners

  • TBI Human Trafficking Unit
  • Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office
  • Office of the 2nd District Attorney General
  • Homeland Security Investigations
  • Sullivan County Courthouse

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Employment Loss:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Tennessee
Type County
Population 157707
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