Tuscaloosa County, AL

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Shaming
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Letters
Cameras
Web stings
License suspension

Tuscaloosa County is located in central Alabama, west of Birmingham.  It has a population of approximately 210,000.  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 johns 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 johns’ 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.

Key Partners

  • Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office
  • Tuscaloosa Police Department
  • West Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force
  • Northport Police Department
  • University of Alabama Police Department

Key Sources

State Alabama
Type County
Population 184035
Location
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