Tulsa, OK

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

Tulsa is the second-largest city in the state of Oklahoma, with a population of approximately 411,000. It is the largest city and serves as the county seat of Tulsa County. Prostitution and sex trafficking of both adults and children have been thoroughly documented as substantial problems in the city for decades, and residents have complained to police about these and related crimes in multiple areas of the city. For example, in November 2013, a Tulsa man was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison for the sex trafficking of children. Prosecutors said the offender used social media to lure underage girls into abuse in the sex trade. He was convicted of conspiring to recruit, entice, transport, provide, and obtain girls under the age of 18 knowing and in reckless disregard of the fact that the girls would be caused to engage in commercial sex acts. One of the victims was just 14 years old. In January 2013, a man was charged by a federal grand jury with attempted sex-trafficking and using the telephone and internet to facilitate prostitution. The man was arrested by Tulsa police after a 15-year-old girl met with an undercover officer during a prostitution sting at a local motel. The officers arranged the meeting through Backpage.com. In July, 2022, a man was arrested in connection with a sex trafficking operation in the Tulsa area. Officers from the Tulsa Police Department of Human Trafficking and Vice (HTV) conducted a prostitution investigation at a Tulsa home, and found a suspect in a bedroom with a gun and about 300 grams of “packaged drugs,” and a victim of a criminal commercial sex business in the Tulsa area. The suspect faced multiple charges related to firearms, drug distribution, and human trafficking.

Prostitution-related violence is also well documented in Tulsa. For example, in 2013, sentences were announced in a federal sex trafficking case in which victims were smuggled into the United States and throughout at least 10 states (including Oklahoma, and the Tulsa area).  Victims were beaten, threatened with firearms, and sex trafficked. One victim was subjected to harsh verbal and physical abuse, and was injected with drugs. In October 2015, Tulsa Police identified a homicide victim, and the investigation took police ” into the world of methamphetamine and prostitution.” A house on W. Independence was being used for illegal drug sales and prostitution that appeared to include sex trafficking. Police investigated an allegation that a woman was being held in the residence and sex trafficked. In 2016, a woman was arrested for prostitution, and a record check found she was wanted for a previous homicide allegation. Investigators believed she was one of four people who helped dispose of a woman’s body earlier that year. In July 2022, an undercover police officer was robbed at gunpoint while conducting a prostitution sting. Both assailants were arrested. Prosecutors allege the pair worked together to lure who they thought was just a customer who wanted to pay for sex to a motel in order to rob him.

Child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) associated with prostitution have also been found in Tulsa. For example, in 2017, a woman was was arrested in a Tulsa Police undercover sting, and jailed on two felony complaints: possession of child pornography and procurement of a minor for prostitution. The arresting officer said he was at a hotel near 31st and Memorial taking part in a child sex abuse material (child pornography) investigation. He met a woman who agreed that she and a minor female would engage in prostitution. The woman showed the officer a video clip of a “child performing a sex act with an adult,” which led to her arrest. Illicit drugs are also commonly involved in commercial sex. For example, during a prostitution sting in 2017, a sex buyer approached an undercover police women and offered her drugs as payment for sex. In other cases, those trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation also traffic drugs, and use addiction to gain compliance of the victims.

In response to the wide range of criminal activity accompanying prostitution and sex trafficking, police have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex. The Tulsa Police Department frequently conducts reverse stings, and the courts can impose geographic restrictions (SOAP orders) on people arrested for attempting to purchase sex. In September 2014, for example, a male sex buyer was arrested at a Tulsa motel after arranging to pay for sex with what he thought was a 13-year-old girl (but was, in fact, a TPD undercover officer). Following the sting, the man’s name and arrest photo were released to the public. In April 2021, the Tulsa Police Human Trafficking and Vice Unit conducted an undercover online prostitution sting targeting sex buyers. Four men were arrested for engaging in lewdness/prostitution, and their mug shots and identities were included in news reports.

According to the commander in charge of these operations, Lt. Brian Wilson, the TPD frequently conducts these street-level and web-based reverse sting operations in efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex in the city and greater county area,

“It’s demand. It’s simply economics for these folks. You know because you have supply and demand. The demand side of these folks who are paying for these women to have sexual acts with them, and the majority, if not all of them, not at their will.”

The TPD reported a significant increase in commercial sex activity in recent years and in response have increased the number of reverse sting operations being conducted in the city. Since March 2019, the TPD’s Human Trafficking/Vice Unit has made 59 human trafficking-related arrests, including 29 federal indictments. In comparison to zero arrests being made in 2018. The TPD plans on continuing conducting these operations in the future.

Loss of Employment, Sex Buyer Arrests

Loss of employment is also a consequence of buying sex in the city. The Tulsa Police Department has also experienced issues concerning TPD officers being arrested for soliciting prostitution either during reverse sting operations and/or as the result of complaints to the department. For example, in 1988, a former TPD officer was arrested for child sex trafficking and related charges. According to reports, the former officer was arrested as the result of a two-month prostitution investigation by the TPD after officers had discovered the man had been sex trafficking a 13-year-old runaway female. Police affidavits allege [the offender], “paid the teenager $20 to have sexual intercourse with him at his Tulsa home, and also offered a male informant $100 if he would procure a 12-year-old girl for him.” Police informants stated that the former officer was arrested by undercover officers after he attempted “trade or buy child pornography.” The offender was transported to the Tulsa City-County Jail in lieu of $300,000 bail on felony counts of first-degree rape, lewd molestation, and receiving a child for the purpose of prostitution. Lt. Lynn Jones, area commander, reported that the investigation resulted in 111 misdemeanor and felony arrest warrants being served for prostitution, burglary, automobile theft and drugs and made 30 additional arrests for prostitution related crimes – soliciting, pandering, and providing a house of prostitution. According to reports, the offender had been a Tulsa policeman for seven years, “when he was fired in 1981 after being accused of demanding sexual favors from a woman and 14-year-old girl in separate incidents while on duty.” In 1982, the former officer was also implicated in a murder case.

In 2013, the a TPD officer was for soliciting prostitution after the TPD received a complaint alleging the officer in question had been soliciting sex from women. Internal Affairs set up a sting operation and say they caught the officer offering money to an undercover officer in exchange for sex. The department issued a statement saying that an officer with the Tulsa Police Department was arrested after a lengthy internal investigation. The TPD had received information regarding alleged criminal activity involving the officer and then launched an investigation. The officer in question was booked into the Tulsa County Jail on complaints of engaging in prostitution within 1,000 feet of a church and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony. Records show his bond is $11,500. As a result of his arrest, he was placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.

In July 2021, a prostituted woman reported to police that an officer was soliciting prostitution from other prostituted women. Police set up an undercover operation, and the officer was arrested, fired, and transported to jail.

Neighborhood Action

Neighborhood action focused on the buyers has also occurred in the city, and convicted sex buyers sentences may include performing community service. 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.

Key Partners

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Employment Loss, Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:

Neighborhood Action:

  • “Residents Want Streets Back; Prostitution Plagues Area Near TU”, Tulsa World, May 20 1989.
  • “Residents Turn out at Night to Fight Prostitution”, Tulsa World, May 21 1989.
  • “Fighting Prostitution”, Tulsa World, May 24 1989.

Public Education:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Local Prostitution-Related Violence, CSAM, Drugs, Weapons Offenses:

State Oklahoma
Type City
Population 411401
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