Police Say Pekin Prostitution Ring Began Online

By Maggie Vespa

April 18, 2011 Updated Apr 18, 2011 at 10:20 PM CDT

Unwelcome guests- that's the message coming from authorities in one Central Illinois town Monday as an investigation into online prostitution in their community continues to unfold.

While it's a problem that didn't start in their community, Pekin police say it's one that's taken hold in recent months.

They say they first became aware of the presence of prostitution in their town a few months ago.

That's when third shift officers noticed women lingering on sidewalks late at night.

They soon discovered most of those women were traveling from Peoria to have sex for money with men they'd met online, mainly, police say, at 'www.backpage.com.'

Police soon set up three undercover stings, posting a mock profile on 'backpage.'

They arrested 19 people total, including a Caterpillar executive, a Keystone vice president and a local little league coach.

Police say while prostitution has never before been an issue in Pekin, the ability of people to solicit prostitutes from neighboring cities or even states, is bringing the problem to their town.

"Street corner prostitution and gangs and open-air drug sales are three things that we don't have as problems in our community, and we're not going to have. So when we realized we had a prostitution problem starting to take hold, we wanted to address it right away," said Chief Greg Nelson of the Pekin Police Department.

Nelson says all 19 men arrested were charged with 'solicitation for prostitution.'

That charge carries a $200 fine. He says a majority of them paid the fine immediately.

Nelson adds the department is not done in their fight to keep prostitution out of Pekin.

Detectives are planning more stings for the future. He says they plan to keep those operations going until 'the problem is under control.'

To submit a comment on this article, your email address is required. We respect your privacy and your email will not be visible to others nor will it be added to any email lists.