Wichita, KS

Tactics Used

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

Wichita is the largest city in Kansas, with a population of approximately 385,000 residents. Situated in the heart of Sedgwick County at the junction of Interstate 35 and U.S. Route 54, the city has struggled with commercial sex sales along major roadways since the early 1980s. 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 hotbeds of prostitution activity. While street solicitation has declined since its heyday in the early 1990s (at times resulting in 418 related arrests in a two-year span), sex sales continue to occur at street level, and in and around Broadway’s roadside motels. A wide range of problems are known to accompany prostitution in Wichita.  For example, prostituted women have been murdered in the city, and johns and prostituted persons have been assaulted and robbed by pimps.

To address the such issues, the Wichita Police Department has elaborated 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. They are now conducted on a routine basis, using one or more undercover female officers as decoys. As johns attempt to solicit sex from the women, they are apprehended by police. Once arrested, johns 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 sales), they may be subject to mandatory jail time and/or an additional $2,500 fine.

Police 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.

In recent years, sex trafficking and the forced prostitution of minors–though not new to the area– has become increasingly linked to the city’s 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 child predators. In May 2012, one such investigation employed the use of a web sting. Detectives posted a decoy advertisement offering commercial sex with a minor. As johns replied to the listing, they were contacted by an undercover female officer posing as an underage prostituted girl. When they solicited sex from the officer and arranged to meet, they were arrested by police.

 

Key Sources

State Kansas
Type City
Population 361420
Location
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