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Tuscaloosa County is located in central Alabama, west of Birmingham. The county has a population of approximately 201,000 residents. In the city of Tuscaloosa, the police department has conducted reverse stings to address community complaints about prostitution, and the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office has collaborated with local police departments in cities and unincorporated areas of the county.
In June 2015, TPD officers announced the completion of a web-based reverse sting at a Tuscaloosa hotel. Eight male sex buyers were arrested during the operation after responding to decoy advertisements on a website known for prostitution activity. All of the men’s identities and arrest photos were publicized in press. When asked about the sting by the Birmingham News, a TPD representative stated:
“The Tuscaloosa Police Department understands that focus has to be put on arresting the men that solicit prostitution. We will continue to run these operations in the future and focus on both sides of prostitution and give help to those who are forced into prostitution or want to get out of the lifestyle they are currently involved in.”
In a similar investigation in early February 2016, eight men were arrested after responding to an online advertisement suggesting prostitution and arranging to meet what they thought was a woman selling sex– but was, in fact, an undercover officer– at a local hotel. The sting was conducted by the TPD, in collaboration with their peers at the Northport Police Department. In the days after the operation, the TPD posted the sex buyers’ identities and mugshots to their official Facebook page with the following statement:
“The Tuscaloosa Police Department understands that focus has to be put on arresting the men that solicit prostitution. We will continue to run these operations in the future and focus on both sides of prostitution giving help to those who are forced into prostitution or want to get out of the lifestyle they are currently involved in.”
Nearly four dozen “sex buyers” were arrested in Tuscaloosa in January 2018 as part of a national sting operation targeting prostitution and sex trafficking. The Tuscaloosa Police Department ‘s Code Enforcement Unit was the only Alabama law enforcement team to take part in the National John’s Suppression Initiative. All 47 men arrested answered sex ads on Backpage.com or Craigslist, and then were arrested when they showed up at unnamed Tuscaloosa hotels. The going rate locally was about $60 for 15 minutes, $100 for 30 minutes and $200 to $225 for an hour. The women have previously told police they can make about $1,000 a day when they go to Tuscaloosa, and usually stay about four days. The stings were carried out during the weekends of Jan. 12 and Jan. 19. The 47 men were arrested for soliciting prostitution. Some of them were also charged with additional crimes of unlawful possession of controlled substance, unlawful possession of marijuana, pistol permit required, promoting prostitution, resisting arrest, endangering the welfare of a child, receiving stolen property, obstruction justice by false identity and certain persons forbidden to possess a firearm. In addition to the arrests, police recovered eight guns and towed 44 vehicles. In April 2018, another online reverse sting by Tuscaloosa police, ICE, and the Department of Homeland Security resulted in the arrest of four male sex buyers. In August 2018, a total of 28 suspects were charged with 32 misdemeanor crimes during a prostitution sting affiliated with the 16th National Johns Suppression Initiative on Aug. 10-11 and Aug. 17-18. The Tuscaloosa Police Department’s Code Enforcement Unit, along with officers from the Northport and University of Alabama police departments, participated in the operation. Those arrested face charges including soliciting prostitution, and all suspects were processed and taken to the Tuscaloosa County Jail where they were later released on bond.
In February, 2021 the West Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force arrested 20 people in an undercover prostitution sting in Tuscaloosa. The task force is comprised of officers from the Tuscaloosa, Northport, and University of Alabama police departments, along with Tuscaloosa County sheriff’s deputies. Five people arrested were charged with both traveling to meet a minor for an unlawful sex act and electronic solicitation of a child. Fifteen additional sex buyers were arrested and charged with soliciting prostitution. Some faced additional charges, including unlawful possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and carrying a pistol without a license. The identities of the arrestees were released to the public. In April, 2021 another sting operation resulted in the arrest of six men for buying access to sexually abuse children.
Not all sex buyer arrests in the county have been the result of a proactive sting operation, but at least one has resulted from an alternative investigation. In April 2022, a man was arrested by the West Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force on charges of traveling to meet a child for an unlawful sex act, electronic solicitation of a child, second-degree rape, and second-degree sodomy. The investigation began when authorities learned in February that he was soliciting minors through social media apps, including Kik, offering to send them money in exchange for nude images and to meet in person for sex. His identity was released to the press. The man was already awaiting trial on a second-degree rape charge in Bibb County when he was arrested in Tuscaloosa County for soliciting and engaging in sexual activity with minors. The Rock Hill Police Department in South Carolina, where he went to school, assisted in the arrest by executing a search warrant on his devices that identified underage victims of sexual assault in the Tuscaloosa area.
- Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office
- Tuscaloosa Police Department
- West Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force
- Northport Police Department
- University of Alabama Police Department
- Rock Hill Police Department
- Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit’s Sexual Assault Section
Street-Level Reverse Stings (with Identity Disclosure since 2010):
- “Sting Success,” Tuscaloosa News, August 18 1996.
- “Tuscaloosa Police Nab Several ‘Johns,'” Tuscaloosa News, August 18 1996.
- “Tuscaloosa Police Arrest 22 for Soliciting Prostitution,” Tuscaloosa News, October 23 2004.
- “Sting,” Tuscaloosa News, May 20 2005.
- “Tape Details Alleged Misdeed,” Tuscaloosa News, July 22 2005.
- “Council Member Found Guilty of Soliciting Prostitute,” Gadsden Times, July 24 2005.
- “Some Say City Worker Should Be Fired,” Tuscaloosa News, July 27 2005.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets Arrests,” Tuscaloosa News, January 30 2006.
- “City Tightens Law Against Prostitution,” Tuscaloosa News, August 11 2006.
- “11 Arrested for Soliciting Prostitution in Tuscaloosa County,” NBC/WVTM-TV 13, October 22 2010.
- “11 Men Charged in Sting Operation,” Tuscaloosa News, October 22 2010.
- “Tuscaloosa Police Crackdown on Prostitution,” ABC/WBMA-TV 33, October 22 2010.
- http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20101023/news (2010)
- http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/news/20180831/tuscaloosa-suspects-nabbed-in-prostitution-sting (2018)
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “8 Charged with Soliciting Prostitution after Undercover Operation in Tuscaloosa Hotel,” Birmingham News, June 1 2015.
- “Eight Men Charged in Prostitution Sting,” Tuscaloosa News, June 1 2015.
- “8 Men Charged with Soliciting Prostitution in Tuscaloosa Undercover Operation,” Birmingham News, February 13 2016.
- “Tuscaloosa, Northport Police Arrest 8 Men for Solicitation of Prostitution,” NBC/WSFA-TV 12, February 13 2016.
- http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2018/02/47_accused_sex_buyers_arrested.html (February 2018)
- http://www.al.com/news/tuscaloosa/index.ssf/2018/04/4_men_arrested_during_human_tr.html (April 2018)
- https://www.tuscaloosanews.com/undercover-prostitution-sting-nets-14-arrests-tuscaloosa-area/ (2020)
- https://www.cbs42.com/tuscaloosa-police-20-arrested-in-undercover-prostitution-child-sex-trafficking-bust/ (2021)
- https://abc3340.com/human-trafficking-bust-leads-to-20-arrests-in-tuscaloosa (2021)
- https://www.al.com/human-trafficking-operation-lands-20-in-jail-including-6-for-traveling-to-meet-a-minor-for-sex (2021)
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.al.com/man-awaiting-2nd-degree-rape-trial-arrested-on-new-charges-of-soliciting-sex-with-minors-via-social-media-apps (2022)
- https://www.wvua23.com/northport-man-facing-charges-of-traveling-to-meet-minors-for-sex (2022)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Prostitution, Rape Charges Are Filed Here,” Tuscaloosa News, October 9 1984.
- “Women Convicted in Rape Case Here,” Tuscaloosa News, February 27 1985.
- “6 Men Arrested for Rape, Sodomy of 15-Year-Old Girl in Tuscaloosa,” ABC/WBMA-TV 33, May 31 2013.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Alabama Laws Concerning Prostitution Vague,” Tuscaloosa News, February 20 1984.
- “Police Open Substation on 14th Avenue,” Tuscaloosa News, July 22 1998.
- “Six Charged with Prostitution,” Tuscaloosa News, October 3 1998.
- “Prostitution Bust in Front of Police Station,” ABC/WBMA-TV 33, October 12 2010.
- “Prostitution Scheme Turns Violent with Toddler Present,” ABC/WBMA-TV 33, July 9 2012.
- “Undercover Operation Nets Arrests in Tuscaloosa,” NBC/WVTM-TV 13, October 7 2013.
Prostitution-Related Violence and Child Endangerment:
- “Prostitution Scheme Turns Violent with Toddler Present,” ABC/WBMA-TV 33, July 9 2012.