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Tazewell County has a population of approximately 135,000 and is part of the Peoria Metropolitan Statistical Area in central Illinois. Its county seat and largest city is Pekin. Other noteworthy communities within the county include East Peoria, Morton, and the villages of Creve Coeur and Hopedale. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the cities, villages, and unincorporated areas of the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are sex trafficking and the serial killing of prostituted women.
Police have reported that many of the prostituted persons in Pekin are from Peoria, and are dropped off by their sex traffickers/pimps to be exploited for a day to two at a time in the area. Others travel from Bloomington, Indiana, and stop in the Pekin area on their way to Peoria. In May 2015, an undercover police investigation led to the prostitution arrest of a woman working at an East Peoria massage parlor. The woman was released with a notice to appear in Tazewell County Circuit Court on a misdemeanor charge of prostitution. The arrest came after the city police department received “a number of complaints” about possible prostitution at the business, which the woman, who spoke little English, listed as her home address. In January 2019, a Creve Coeur woman was arrested as the result of a monthlong prostitution investigation initiated in response to neighborhood complaints. The woman was held in Tazewell County Jail on a misdemeanor charge of resisting a peace officer, and with ordinance violations from Creve Coeur related to the prostitution allegations. Surveillance and interviews had confirmed illicit activities were taking place at her residence. An undercover Creve Coeur Police Department officer sent the woman a text message to her telephone number appearing in an advertisement on an escort website. In subsequent texts, she agreed to exchange sexual acts for money and directed the officer to her residence. When the officer arrived, she agreed to the transaction verbally. Other officers arrived and attempted to arrest her. She resisted arrest, but the officers were able to subdue her and make the arrest. An order to appear in Tazewell County Circuit Court was issued.
In September 2004, the body of a murdered 40-year-old woman was found along a one-lane gravel road near Hopedale, a small town southeast of Peoria. In January 2005, an inmate of Tazwell County Jail was linked to the deaths of that victim and seven other women whose bodies were dumped along desolate rural roads in Peoria and Tazewell counties since 2001. Four other women were missing and feared dead. Prosecutors charged the suspect with crimes responsible for the 10 dead and missing women. Police had received a tip leading them to the man, and a search of his home and property turned up remains of at least one body. Authorities said they suspected a single killer was responsible because of similarities in the deaths. All the dead and missing women were black and their backgrounds included prostitution and/or drug use.
Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by municipal and county law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. For example, in 2011, Pekin police conducted their first prostitution sting, deciding to focus on the male buyers rather than the providers of commercial sex. They conducted three web-based reverse stings in a three week period, arresting 19 sex buyers and publicizing their names, ages, and home towns. The arrested men were cited with violating a city ordinance, and paid a $200 fine. In August 2012, a set of two more web-based reverse stings were conducted in Pekin, resulting in seven arrests, and the names, ages, and addresses of arrestees were published in local new outlets. Police placed a fake ad on the website backpage.com, and in a 24-hour period had 125 voicemails. The Pekin Police Department hired three “informants” for $100 per night to play the part of the prostituted woman (i.e., serving as reverse sting decoy).
Some local arrests of sex buyers in the county are the result of allegations of crimes against real victims, rather than the product of reverse stings using undercover police decoys. For example, in September 2018, an East Peoria man was arrested for soliciting a homeless minor for sex, coercing her into sexual abuse by threatening to kick her and her mother out of his home. The man was tried and found guilty in a Tazewell County jury trial. He was convicted of seven charges that included aggravated criminal sexual assault while in a supervisory capacity of a minor and soliciting to promote juvenile prostitution. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison. He had preyed on the 16-year-old girl for about seven months after she and her mother moved into his home, the girl testified. The mother and daughter had lived in their car, and the man took them into his home, and the girl’s mother found house cleaning work. He soon demanded rent from them and began sexually touching the girl as she watched TV or read books for her homeschooling courses. The affidavit stated the 16-year-old homeless girl was afraid of being kicked out and living out of the car again if she didn’t submit to him.
- Tazewell County Circuit Court, 10th Judicial Circuit
- Pekin Police Department
- East Peoria Police Department
- Peoria Police Department
- Morton Police Department
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “19 Arrested in Pekin Prostitution Stings”, Peoria Journal-Star, April 17 2011.
- “Area Men Get Stung: Pekin Police Department Nets 19 in Prostitution Sting”, Pekin Voice, April 17 2011.
- “Pekin Prostitution Sting Nets Macomb Man”, McDonough County Voice, April 21 2011.
- “Prostitution Sting Leads to Discipline”, Pekin Times, April 29 2011.
- “Police Arrest 10 in Prostitution Sting”, Pekin Times, August 7 2012.
- https://www.pjstar.com/article/NEWS (2012)
Employment Loss, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.pjstar.com/morton-public-works-chief-arrested (2011)
- https://www.wandtv.com/former-morton-village-town-official-charged-with-soliciting-sex (2011)
- https://www.pjstar.com/morton-interim-police-chief-public (2011)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- https://www.policeprostitutionandpolitics.com/Police Chief faces prostitution charges in Pekin (2011)
- https://cm.pjstar.com/former-pekin-officer-pleads-guilty (2011)
- https://www.pekintimes.com/peoria-woman-arrested-for-prostitution (2011)
- https://www.pjstar.com/ten-people-arrested-in-pekin (2012)
- https://www.pekintimes.com/ep-massage-parlor-investigation-leads (2015)
- https://www.facebook.com/east-peoria-police-say-a-number-of-complaints-about-asian-body-works (2015)
- https://www.pjstar.com/undercover-investigation-east-peoria-massage (2015)
- https://www.pjstar.com/east-peorian-gets-28-years (2018)
- https://www.centralillinoisproud.com/news/local-news/east-peoria-man-charged-with-criminal-sexual-assault (2018)
- https://www.galesburg.com/top-regional-news-republican-headquarters (2018)
- “Additional Charges Filed against North Pekin Man in Criminal Sex Abuse Investigations,” Peoria Journal Star, October 6 2015.
- https://www.wcbu.org/creve-coeur-woman-facing-prostitution-charges (2019)
- https://www.pjstar.com/creve-coeur-woman-arrested (2019)
- https://www.centralillinoisproud.com/tazewell-health-department-raises-awareness-on-human-trafficking (2019)
- https://casetext.com/case/people-v-rogers (2021)
- https://qctimes.com/police search serial killers (2004)
- https://www.deseret.com/police-arrest-man-in-illinois-deaths (2005)
- https://groups.google.com/g/alt.true-crime/the one that got away from Larry Bright (2005)
Local Prostitution Ordinances: