Allentown, PA

Tactics Used

Buyer Arrests
Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

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 would now be called a domestic trafficking network. Other cities on the circuit included Harrisburg, Reading, Wilkes-Barre, and Scranton, and the network 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.

Efforts to reduce local commercial sex and sex trafficking have included efforts to combat demand. In the 1970s, city law enforcement were among the first in the nation to target 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

State Pennsylvania
Type City
Population 120915
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