Atlanta, GA

Tactics Used

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

Atlanta, home to about 490,000 residents, is the capital of Georgia and the county seat of Fulton County. Atlanta was one of the “early adopters” of tactics used to combat demand for commercial sex. The city has also been a pioneer in public education and awareness campaigns focused on demand for trafficked sex and prostitution. Reverse stings and shaming efforts are known to have occurred periodically since 1976, if not before. Recent examples include a web-based operation conducted in 2018 that was designed to apprehend those seeking to buy sex with children in the Atlanta region. Police arrested nearly two dozen people. Officers pretended to be teenagers online in order to lure the alleged predators from all over metro Atlanta to meet up and pay for sex. Detectives said some of the men brought money with them when they pulled up to the covert house expecting to have rendezvous with a 14-year-old boy or girl. The joint “Operation Spring Cleaning” led by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Gwinnett County Police Department led to 23 arrests over five days. The identities of the men were included in press releases.

Atlanta’s most well-known effort to combat demand is its “Dear John” campaign from the mid-2000s, which was an effort to educate the public about the demand for sex purchased from prostituted and trafficked women and girls, and to deter men from buying sex. Atlanta also engaged in an effort to launch a john school program from about 2005-2008. A curriculum was developed, legislation was passed to raise the fine limits so that the john school would be self-sufficient in terms of funding, and a memorandum of understanding that outlined the roles of the key program partners was drafted. However, the program was not implemented, and the active planning to launch a john school appears to have stopped with the departure of Mayor Shirley Franklin at the beginning of 2009. Other tactics meant to deter sex buyers used by the city include posting “No Cruising” signs and enforcing cruising ordinances that can be applied when vehicles are observed to pass designated areas more than twice in a short period of time. In some of the sting operations, vehicles used by arrested sex buyers have been impounded.

In 2013, an effort to implement banishment for both buyers and sellers of sex was proposed to the city council. It would operate like a SOAP order but would be city-wide, rather than confined to small areas, and would be permanent (i.e., a lifetime ban from the city). The proposal was met with substantial resistance from the community, and the city council appointed a work-group to study more productive ways to combat prostitution and sex trafficking.

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred with employers based in the city. For example, in February 2015, a former NFL player was fired from his job as an analyst for the NFL Network (headquartered in Atlanta) several days after being arrested while in Phoenix to cover that year’s Super Bowl. He was booked on one count of soliciting prostitution and two counts of assault, both misdemeanor offenses, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. He was held on a $1,500 bond. The NFL Network spokesman said, in a statement, “Warren Sapp’s contract has been terminated and he no longer works for NFL Network.” According to a statement released by the Phoenix Police Department, officers working security at a downtown Phoenix hotel were investigating a noise disturbance when they were contacted by a woman alleging she had been assaulted. The incident occurred in a guest room at the hotel where an argument ensued over money. The altercation allegedly turned physical, spilling out into the hallway. The sex buyer arrested and then transported to Phoenix Police Headquarters, where he admitted involvement in the act of prostitution, but denied assaulting either of the two involved females.

For a description of the efforts to combat demand in Atlanta, and how the key efforts evolved that resulted in the “Dear John” campaign, follow this link: Atlanta Case Study

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey, Interviews, and Site Visit

Reverse Stings:

Arrest and Shaming of Sex Buyer:

Sex Buyers Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:

“No Cruising” Signs and Other Anti-Loitering Ordinances:

“Dear John” Campaign:

Shaming:

Cameras:

  • “Atlanta Increases Surveillance of City”, Atlanta Journal Constitution, September 19 2011.

Proposed SOAP Orders:

Proposed John School:

Neighborhood Action:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Georgia
Type City
Population 488800
Location
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