COLUMBIA — A sting operation led by the Columbia Police Department's narcotics unit and two Boone County Sheriff's Department deputies resulted in the arrest of seven women on suspicion of prostitution.
The operation took place between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesday at a hotel in east Columbia "that is not known for prostitution or any type of illegal activity," according to a police news release.
The arrests were made through the use of advertisements for adult services on three local Web sites: backpage.com, cityvibe.com and the Columbia Tribune. The ads also appeared in the Columbia Tribune's print classifieds.
"Clearly they were advertising sexual services, and we're aware of that," said Public Information Officer Jessie Haden. "We contacted them through the ads they took out, and they came to meet our folks at the hotel."
People have called with concern about these kinds of ads, wondering what can be done about it and why they are allowed to run, Haden added.
"It's not illegal to place these ads," Haden said. "But there's been a lot of community angst about these types of ads being posted."
The department conducted similar investigations in November 2006, May 2008 and January 2009, resulting in a total of 19 arrests — 13 for prostitution, four for drug charges and two for outstanding warrants, according to the release.
Police pick up "a lot of intelligence from prostitutes about other types of criminal activities," Haden said. "No one knows better in a town about criminal activity than the people that are involved in criminal activity."
Those arrested on a charge of prostitution — a $500 bond misdemeanor — include:
- Nikki Boone, 25
- Amber Bowman, 24
- Ebonie Brooks, 33
- Lorene Lamberson, 32
- Julie Miles, 29
- Shanelle Tillman, 27
- Tammara Utley, 33
All are from Columbia, and all have been released on bond with the exception of Tillman, as of Thursday afternoon.