Woodbury County, IA

Tactics Used

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

Woodbury County has approximately 102,000 residents, and is located in western Iowa along the Nebraska border, north of Omaha and south of Sioux Falls along Interstate 29. The county seat is Sioux City.  Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified by law enforcement as problems in the cities and unincorporated areas of the county, and residents have complained to police about these activities.

In response to such concerns, police within the county have employed tactics that target the underlying consumer demand for commercial sex. For example, the Sioux City Police Department began conducting street-level reverse stings in January 1983. Their first operation resulted in the arrest of five sex buyers. More recently, in February 2015, 15 johns were arrested during a “reverse sweep” in the city. SCPD officers did not disclose details about the investigation, but noted that the department conducts periodic reversals to reduce demand. He added that “most sweeps result in fewer arrests, typically about five [johns].” In the days following the sting, the men’s names and hometowns were publicized by local media outlets.

The Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office has collaborated with the municipal police departments and other state and federal agencies to conduct reverse stings.  For example, in 2017 a reverse sting led to the arrest of four men at a Sioux City hotel.  A female police posed as a prostitute and advertisements were placed on several websites known for facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking. The Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office collaborated with the Sioux City Police Department, Iowa State Patrol, and Department of Homeland Security for the sting.  Police identified the arrested men in news releases, and all four men were booked into the Woodbury County Jail and charged with solicitation of prostitution.


Key Partners

  • Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office
  • Sioux City Police Department
  • Iowa State Patrol
  • Department of Homeland Security

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Shaming:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

  • “Nebraskans Say Law Helps to Control Teen Prostitution,” Omaha World-Herald, March 22 1985.
  • “Task Force Cites Big Prostitution Ring,” Spencer Daily Reporter, August 22 1985.
  • “Citizens Group Urges Tougher Laws To End Teen-age Prostitution,” Omaha World-Herald, September 26 1985.
  • “Teen-age Prostitutes Keep a Low Profile in Omaha,” Omaha World-Herald, September 29 1985.
  • “Rumor Places Prostitution Ring in Other Cities,” Omaha World-Herald, October 10 1985.

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

  • “Police Target Cook Park Prostitutes,” Sioux City Journal, August 12 1997.
  • “New Ordinance Would Establish Licensing Requirements and Regulations for Sexually-Oriented Businesses in Sioux City,” Sioux City Journal, December 7 2004.
  • “Police Arrest Seven in Prostitution Sting,” Sioux City Journal, July 23 2005.
  • “Cracking Down,” Sioux City Journal, July 27 2005.
  • “Prostitution Arrest Made at Sioux City Massage Business,” Sioux City Journal, November 30 2011.
  • “Arraignment Set in Massage Business Prostitution Case,” Sioux City Journal, December 1 2011.
  • “Crime Watch: Masseuse Arrested for Soliciting Undercover Officer, Police Say,” Sioux City Journal, December 1 2011.
  • “Sioux City Massage Parlor Case Dismissed,” Sioux City Journal, June 19 2012.
  • “State Suspends Sioux City Massage Therapists’ Licenses,” Sioux City Journal, April 30 2013.
  • “Couple Arrested for Pimping, Prostitution,” Sioux City Journal, April 4 2016.
  • https://siouxcityjournal.com/sioux-city-couple-tied-to-mothershed-arrested-for-pimping-prostitution (2016)

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Iowa
Type County
Population 102700
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