Allentown, PA

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Allentown is Pennsylvania’s third most populous city, with about 120,000 residents. It is the county seat of Lehigh County, located along the Lehigh River, in eastern Pennsylvania. It is an older industrial city with a history of substantial prostitution activity. In the 1970s and 1980s, the city was identified by police to be on a “pimp circuit,” which is now described as a domestic trafficking network. Other cities on the circuit included, Harrisburg, Reading, Wilkes-Barre, and Scranton. The network also extended into upstate New York. In 1984, a state Senator commented to the Allentown Morning Call, that “the amount of child prostitution (in the Allentown area) is sad and ugly. It’s shocking. Being manipulated by pimps is not a good life at any age.” Allentown sex trafficking cases continue to be investigated and arrests made. For example, a private club was investigated in 2013, resulting in numerous arrests for prostitution and related offenses.

Problems associated with the sex trade in Allentown include reckless endangerment of the public and violence among people engaged in prostitution. For example, an incident occurred in 1993, in which, a man caught in a reverse sting operation fled from police in a tow truck, smashing into an occupied car, then, leading police on a 50-mile-per-hour chase in reverse, forcing several vehicles off the street to avoid collisions. The man was charged with reckless endangerment and seven traffic counts, in addition to “patronizing a prostitute.” In November 2010, a man arranged for a $60 topless massage in his apartment, during which, one of the women shot the man in the back of the head. The man survived because the gun fired .22-caliber birdshot pellets. The woman who shot him was sentenced to 4.5 to 9 years in state prison, after pleading guilty to aggravated assault. The other woman was sentenced to 1 to 2 years in prison after pleading no contest to criminal conspiracy, to commit aggravated assault, and was granted parole the following year. In August 2014, a trafficked woman testified that her pimp choked her and took all of her money.

Efforts to reduce local commercial sex and sex trafficking have included efforts to combat demand. In the 1970s, city law enforcement was among the first in the nation to target the underlying demand for prostitution, conducting a reverse sting in 1977. Scores of reverse stings yielding hundreds of arrests have followed. The identities of arrested sex buyers were – and continue to be – released to the media.

The city began sending “Dear John” letters to the homes of arrestees in 1988. The letters warned of health risks associated with engaging in prostitution.

Key Partners

  • Allentown Police Department
  • Allentown Health Bureau

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:


Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Pennsylvania
Type City
Population 125845
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