Vanderburgh County, IN

Tactics Used

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

Vanderburgh County is located in southwestern Indiana, and Evansville is the county seat and largest city.  County law enforcement has fielded complaints about prostitution from residents and businesses for at least two decades. The city has also documented multiple cases of targeted sexual assaults and homicides of prostituted women, and least one case of the forced prostitution of minors.

In their efforts to reduce commercial sex activity, the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office and municipal PDs within the count have conducted periodic reverse stings. For example, officers have conducted street-level “john” stings in Evansville since at least 1995, and has released the names of all individuals charged with prostitution-related offenses to the public since that time. In late February 2015, for example, EPD officers arrested six men during a web-based reversal that utilized decoy online advertisements. Each of the men allegedly responded to the listing and arranged to meet a female undercover officer (posing as a prostituted woman) at an agreed upon location. According to the Evansville Courier & Press, the “transactions” were allegedly recorded using surveillance cameras. All of the johns’ names and arrest photos were publicized by local media outlets.

Local residents have also mobilized to reduce demand for prostitution. In the early 1980s, Evansville drew national press when members of the Blackford’s Grove Neighborhood Association began recording the license plates of cars seen idling and soliciting prostituted women in their neighborhood. Residents then used the license plate numbers to mail postcards to the homes of the vehicles’ owners. The postcards contained a description of “the car, the driver and the time the driver was seen picking up a prostitute [in the neighborhood, with a] request that the activity ‘cease.'” When asked about the Dear John letters, Blackford’s Grove Neighborhood Association members stated that they felt compelled to act after several female residents complained about being solicited while walking in the neighborhood.

In December, 2018, a man was arrested be deputies of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office for allegedly offering to pay a teenager for sex. The man was accused of sending a 16-year-old inappropriate messages through Facebook, including offering $300 for sex.  He was booked into the Vanderburgh County Jail.  The investigation started in late October, after the teenager took a screenshot of the messages and sent them to a family member, who posted them on Facebook. Investigators got a search warrant for the Facebook account to confirm the messages.  Investigators believe the man propositioned other people in addition to the teenager.

Key Partners

  • Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office
  • Evansville Police Department

Key Sources

State Indiana
Type County
Population 119407
Location
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