Joplin is a city of about 50,000 residents that is located in western Missouri, along Interstate 44 near the Oklahoma and Kansas borders. Prostitution has been reported in the city as early as the 1870s, when a mining boom brought a large influx of male miners, soon followed by brothels. In 2012-2013, a case of sex trafficking was reported by the local media after police surveillance of Backpage.com led officers to a 14-year-old runaway being pimped online by two adults.
Historically, the majority of the Joplin Police Department’s efforts to combat prostitution have targeted prostituted women over johns. In January 2013, however, the JPD “reversed the course of recent online sting operations” and conducted a web-based reverse sting at a local motel. Whereas in previous operations Joplin detectives had contact escort services advertising sex on Backpage.com, the January sting saw officers posting their own decoy advertisement to the site. As johns responded to the ad, an undercover officer arranged to meet them at a local motel. Detectives arrested one man and cited three others for soliciting prostitution when they arrived at a designated motel room with an intention of paying for sex. The men’s ages ranged from 36 to 67, and all were from the Joplin or Springfield areas. All face the same misdemeanor charge police had previously levied against prostituted women advertising on Backpage. The chief of police said the decision to target johns instead of prostitutes reflects the department’s acknowledgment that customers contribute to the problems prostitution brings to the city.
In June 2014, Joplin officers conducted a second web-based reverse sting, resulting in the arrest of nine sex buyers. Officers with the Joplin Police Department’s Investigations Bureau conducted a prostitution sting at an un-named hotel in Joplin. During this operation the Investigations Bureau arrested two females for prostitution and also arrested nine males for soliciting prostitution. One of the males was also arrested for resisting arrest. Mug shots and a list of names and charges for those that were arrested was included in a police press release. All were arrested on misdemeanor charges and were transported to the Joplin City Jail for booking.
- Joplin Police Department
- Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- “Johns Targeted in Latest Prostitution Sting”, Joplin Globe, January 25 2013.
- “Joplin Prostitution Sting”, NBC/KSNF-TV 16, June 4 2014.
- “Police Nab 11 Suspects after Prostitution Sting”, Joplin Globe, June 4 2014.
- Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- “Montana Couple Charged with Promoting Springfield Juvenile’s Prostitution”, Ozarks First, January 10 2013.
- “Online Prostitution Stings in Joplin Turning Up Runaways”, Joplin Globe, January 10 2013.
- “Online Prostitution Ring”, NBC/KSNF-TV 16, January 11 2013.
- “Runaway Testifies in Prostitution Case”, Joplin Globe, February 5 2013.
- “Texas Man Sentenced for Transporting Girl for Prostitution”, Joplin Globe, October 29 2013.
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- Historical Context:
- “Prostitution in Joplin Pt. 1”, , May 9 2011.
- “Prostitution in Joplin Pt. 2”, NBC/KSNF-TV 16, May 10 2011.
- “Joplin Police Nab Five Women for Prostitution in Sting”, Joplin Globe, April 21 2012.
- “Joplin Prostitution Charge Highlights What’s Being Called Serious, Growing Problem,” CBS/KOAM-TV 7, October 13 2015.