Wichita, KS

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

Wichita is the largest city in Kansas, with a population of approximately 390,000 residents. Situated in Sedgwick County at the junction of Interstate 35 and U.S. Route 54, the city has struggled since at least the late 1970s with numerous problems associated with commercial sex occurring along major roadways. The south and north corridors of Broadway Street, formerly known as U.S. Highway 81, are frequently cited by residents and local law enforcement as area with high levels of prostitution activity. While street solicitation has declined since the early 1990s (resulting in 418 related arrests during one two-year span), commercial sex activity continues to occur at street-level, as well as in and around Broadway’s roadside motels. A wide range of problems are known to arise from prostitution in Wichita, such as child endangerment, numerous drug and weapons offenses, violence (e.g., murder of sexually exploited women and girls, assaults, robberies,  committed against both sex buyers and those exploited in commercial. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation.

Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. The Wichita Police Department has articulated an aggressive and comprehensive strategy that includes targeted efforts to identify and apprehend sex buyers. Street-level reverse stings have been utilized for over 20 years, with operations concentrated in Chisholm Park and the Broadway Street areas. Wichita police conduct prostitution operations on a routine basis, using one or more undercover female officers as decoys. As suspects attempt to solicit sex from the women, they are apprehended by police. Once arrested, sex buyers may have their names and other identifying information posted to the WPD’s official website. If the men attempted to purchase sex in one of the city’s three “Anti-Prostitution Emphasis Areas” (so designated by the WPD for their high levels of commercial sex activity), they may be subject to mandatory jail time and/or an additional $2,500 fine. Recent examples include a reverse sting conducted in December 2017, that resulted in the arrest of 11 male sex buyers. The men were arrested on suspicion of patronizing a prostitute and “hiring a prostitute” to engage in sexual acts in the Broadway corridor area. During the last four months of 2017, police arrested 48 men for attempting to buy sex in the Broadway area.

From August 2017 through May 2019, law enforcement authorities had conducted 17 sex crimes special assignment operations, with a total of 137 arrests (110 men and 27 women). A reverse sting resulting in the arrest of eight sex buyers in May, 2019; participating jointly in the investigation were Wichita Patrol south officers, Patrol west officers, Patrol south and north community response teams, and the Wichita Police Department Vice Unit. In June 2021, another operation produced the arrest of 11 sex buyers. In October, 2022, Wichita police arrested 14 more men on various charges stemming from a prostitution sting attempting to reduce the demand for sex along the Broadway corridor, which stretches from Pawnee to 21st Street North and from Water to St. Francis.

In recent decades, sex trafficking and child sex trafficking has become increasingly linked to the city’s illicit commercial sex market. Following a series of high-profile cases involving the sexual exploitation of local children, Wichita police partnered with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and social workers from Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Services to form the Wichita/Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Child Unit (EMCU). Law enforcement now routinely coordinates operations with similar anti-trafficking agencies, and conducts frequent surveillance checks of internet sites known to be used by those paying to sexually abuse children. In May 2012, one such investigation employed the use of a web-based reverse sting. Detectives posted a decoy advertisement offering commercial sex with a minor. As sex buyers replied to the listing, they were contacted by an undercover female officer posing as a sex trafficked minor. When they solicited sex from the officer and arranged to meet, they were arrested by police. Following the conclusion of the operation, the identities of arrested sex buyers were publicly released.

In 2022, Wichita police worked alongside the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Child Unit, advocates with ICTSOS, and other agencies in a web-based reverse sting that targeted individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. As a result of the multi-agency investigation, Operation Blue Ghost, two people were arrested on suspicion of aggravated human trafficking, one on suspicion of human trafficking, one on suspicion of promoting the sale of sex, and 13 on suspicion of buying sex. In addition to the arrests, four potential victims of human trafficking were able to be connected with social services, and three firearms and two vehicles were seized.

Police in Wichita have also partnered with community members to encourage self-policing within city neighborhoods. To this end, officers have helped establish dozens of neighborhood watch programs, and formally divided the city into 500 “crime-reporting zones.” Residents are encouraged to report any suspected prostitution activity to local law enforcement, and to participate in “impact meetings” during criminal investigations.

Additional demand reduction tactics reported in the city have been neighborhood action, cameras, ‘Dear John’ letters, and public education. For example, in the early-to-mid 1990s, when the city was experiencing a significant growth in the local commercial sex activity, residents and businesses collaborated to implement efforts aimed at reducing demand for commercial sex in the area. Residents and businesses would post billboards, take photos of the license plates of suspected sex buyers frequenting the neighborhoods, placed surveillance cameras outside of homes and businesses in the area as evidence for police. Additionally, these neighborhood watch groups would send letters to the homes of the registered car owners based on the images of license plates.

More recent examples of public education have occurred in the city. For example, in July 2018, the Kansas Attorney General announced a new awareness campaign in Kansas is aimed at cutting the demand for prostitution as a way to fight human trafficking. The campaign involves state agencies and local advocacy groups teaming up to push the “Demand an End” initiative, a public awareness campaign as a partner to bring attention to those who purchase sex in our communities, especially with minors started by Street Grace. The campaign intends to promote a culture where buying sex is unacceptable. Several organizations in the county have partnered with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office in their efforts to “Demand an End” to commercial sex in the state of Kansas such as the Wichita Crime Commission, Center for Combating Human Trafficking at Wichita State University, and Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County.

Loss of employment is also a consequence of buying sex in the city. For example, in 2021, a 53-year-old volunteer chaplain for the Wichita Police Department and Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office was arrested after he attempted to solicit sex from undercover female officers. According to reports, detectives were investigating an unrelated prostitution case when they discovered the former chaplain’s involvement. In a statement from the WPD’s Deputy Chief of Police, the offender was fired from both volunteer positions as a result of his arrest,

“[The offender], 53, was interviewed by detectives, booked on misdemeanor charges for purchasing unlawful sexual relations and official misconduct. [He] has been terminated from his volunteer assignment with WPD and the Sheriff’s office.”

Arrest records show the official misconduct charge stems from the vehicle the offender was using. According to police department policy, chaplains are assigned a vehicle while on duty. Police wouldn’t confirm if the man was using a city vehicle or if he was on duty at the time of his arrest. In addition to his volunteer positions, the offender also led a local church, First Salem Church, but detectives were unable to reach any members of the church to detail what consequences (if any) he would be facing within the congregation, as a result of his arrest.

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Public Education:

Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure, Cameras:

Identity Disclosure:

John School:

SOAP Orders:

‘Dear John’ Letters, Neighborhood Action, Cameras:

Auto Seizure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Child Endangerment, Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Local Prostitution Ordinances:

State Kansas
Type City
Population 390566
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