Tulsa County is located in northeastern Oklahoma, and has a population of roughly 650,000. It is the second-most populous county in Oklahoma, and its county seat and largest city is Tulsa,, the second-largest city in the state. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well documented problems in this county, and the Northeast region of the state, and have generated numerous complaints to law enforcement that have instigated police responses. Included in the range of tactics used to address these problems are those that target consumer-level demand.
In September, 2013 the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics’ (OBN) Human Trafficking Unit coordinated an operation focusing on organized sex trafficking in Tulsa, Rogers, Ottawa, and Delaware counties. A spokesman for OBN said the agency initiated the investigation as the result of information about individuals, including minors, forced into prostitution. Undercover agents conducted sex trafficking sting operations at various hotels in the four counties that produced a total of 42 arrests. During “Operation Trojan Horse,” undercover officers posed as prostituted persons and sex buyers on websites known for this activity. Undercover female officers posted ads on backpage.com and, as men showed up at the hotel, expecting sex in exchange for money, they were taken into custody for soliciting prostitution. A total of 20 men were arrested for attempting to purchase sex. The breakdown of those arrests across the four counties was not disclosed, nor were the specific towns in which the arrests were made or the identities of the arrested persons. In addition to the 20 sex buyers, there were arrests of 13 prostituted persons and seven pimps. Three of the prostituted women were identified as victims of human trafficking and transported to a shelter facility’ one of these victims was 15 years old. Agencies involved in the investigation include the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Homeland Security, Tulsa Police, Rogers County Sheriff’s Office, Miami Police, Grove Police, Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, Delaware County District Attorney’s Office, Quapaw Tribal Marshals, Eastern Shawnee Tribal Police, Wyandotte Nation Tribal Police, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office in Kansas and Newton County Sheriff’s Office in Missouri. OBN created a human trafficking unit in 2012 and at the time planned to do many more of these sting operations in the future.
In Broken Arrow, a suburb of Tulsa, prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented and has included sex trafficking. The Broken Arrow Police Department has conducted periodic reverse stings since at least 2010, ranging from posing online as prostitutes or those soliciting sex, to acting as such in person at the hotel. Following arrests, all of the offenders’ names, ages and addresses have been released to the public.
Oklahoma law prohibits people from engaging in prostitution under 21 O.S. 1029, which addresses both prostitution and solicitation of prostitution in the same manner under the same statute. Both prostitution and solicitation are misdemeanors. The penalties for prostitution and solicitation include a jail term of 30 days to one year and a fine of up to $2,500 on the first offense. The fines increase with subsequent convictions, and the court may also mandate 40 to 80 hours of community service.
- Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics
- Bureau of Indian Affairs
- Department of Homeland Security
- Tulsa Police
- Rogers County Sheriff’s Office
- Miami Police
- Grove Police
- Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office
- Delaware County District Attorney’s Office
- Quapaw Tribal Marshals
- Eastern Shawnee Tribal Police
- Wyandotte Nation Tribal Police
- Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office
- Newton County Sheriff’s Office (MO)
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Shaming, Community Service:
- https://www.newson6.com/tulsa-county-da-charges-more-men-in-special-prostitution-operation (2019)
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Region:
- https://www.fox23.com/news/local/three-people-accused-tulsa-county-teen-sex-trafficking-investigation (2021)