August 27, 2021

DES MOINES, Iowa – A 12-state human trafficking operation coordinated by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol led to 102 arrests and identified 47 victims. Operation United Front involved simultaneous state-level human trafficking operations throughout the day on Thursday and into early Friday morning. The operation, comprised of state and federal law enforcement agencies, is believed to be the first multi-state operation of its kind. 

Iowa law enforcement agencies participating in the operation included the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Ankeny Police Department, Clive Police Department, Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, Des Moines Police Department, Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Urbandale Police Department, Walcott Police Department, West Des Moines Police Department, and the Mid-Iowa Narcotics Enforcement Task Force conducted 10 operations to combat human trafficking throughout Iowa. The officers executed 10 search warrants, identified five businesses involved in sex trafficking, made 11 arrests and seized a large quantity of United States currency. The United States Attorney’s Office, Polk County Attorney’s Office, and the Scott County Attorney’s Office assisted with warrants and future prosecution.  

“Human trafficking uniquely affects Iowa given our proximity to major metropolitan areas like Kansas City and Chicago and the intersection of two major interstate systems,” said Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens. “As a result, we know human trafficking is happening in Iowa and that it occurs in a variety of settings. We thank our law enforcement partners and state and federal prosecutors for the unified commitment to stamp out human trafficking in our cities and counties throughout Iowa. We will continue to provide training and resources designed to identify and effectively respond to human trafficking in whatever form it may take.  Together we can prevent this from happening in our state, because even one victim is one too many,” Bayens added.

How Operation United Front Worked

Using both buyer-centric and victim-centric “sting” human trafficking operations, Iowa and participating states were able to rescue and provide medical and other needed services to victims and sex workers, and arrested perpetrators across the country in connection with human trafficking. Other states conducted “minor recovery” operations that were designed to rescue those most vulnerable and easily manipulated by human traffickers. 

In addition to the Iowa Department of Public Safety and Iowa law enforcement agency partners, the following agencies conducted separate state-level operations including: Illinois State Police, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Missouri Attorney General’s Office, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Nebraska State Patrol, North Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, Oklahoma City Police Department, Tulsa Police Department, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Texas Attorney General’s Office, Wisconsin State Patrol, and the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation.

Link to Operation United Front Press Conference, August 27, 2021:



The Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS) is the largest law enforcement agency in the state. It includes six divisions and several bureaus, all working together with local, state and federal government agencies and the private sector, to keep Iowa a safe place by following our core values: leadership, integrity, professionalism, courtesy, service and protection. Divisions within the Iowa DPS: Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, Iowa State Patrol, Iowa State Fire Marshal Division, Iowa Division of Intelligence and Fusion Center, and Administrative Services Division. The Department of Public Safety is led by the Commissioner who is appointed by the Governor.

Iowa Department of Public Safety
215 E 7th St
Des Moines IA 50319