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Atlanta, home to about 500,000 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 been a pioneer in public education and awareness campaigns focused on demand for trafficked sex and prostitution. Reverse stings and identity disclosure 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 to commit sexual abuse. Detectives said some of the men brought money with them when they pulled up to the covert house expecting to have access to sexually assault 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 those who were offering commercial 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. To our knowledge, banishment was never implemented.
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
- Atlanta Police Department
- City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office
- Delkab County Sheriff’s Office
- Fulton County Sheriff’s Office
- U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- Midtown Ponce Security Alliance
- Georgia Network to Ends Sexual Assault (GNESA)
- A Future Not a Past (AFNAP)
- Georgia Women for a Change
National Assessment Survey, Interviews, and Site Visit (2021)
- “57 Persons Arrested”, Waycross Journal-Herald, February 24 1979.
- “72 Men Arrested in Midtown Sting on Prostitution”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 27 1985.
- “25 Male Customers, 3 Women Held in Escort Service Sting”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 16 1988.
- “15 Arrested in Upscale Prostitution Service”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 1 1991.
- “Soliciting Charge Costs Wilson $553 Fine”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 14 1995.
- “Police Pull Metropolitan Parkway Wares Off the Street; Arresting Prostitutes and Their Customers in Sting Sweeps May Help the Area’s Reputation, Officers and Residents Say”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 25 1998.
- “‘Sweep’ Nets $10,000 in Drugs and 214 Arrests”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 1 1998.
- “Shock in Store for ‘Johns’ in Bid to End Child Sex Trade”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 9 2006.
- “Police Targeted Suspected Prostitutes, Johns”, CBS/WGCL-TV 46, February 5 2010.
- “Undercover Prostitution Sting Arrests 79, Mostly Hookers and Johns”, Midtown Patch, May 16 2011.
- https://thegavoice.com/atlanta-police-arrest-50-male-prostitutes-in-operation-summer-heat/ (2011)
- “Police Crackdown on Prostitution in Midtown”, CBS/WGCL-TV 46, March 31 2012.
- https://www.ajc.com/arrested-metro-atlanta-prostitution-sting (2017)
- http://www.cbs46.com/34-georgians-arrested-in-child-sex-sting-operation- (2018)
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
Loss of Employment:
“No Cruising” Signs and Other Anti-Loitering Ordinances:
- “New Prostitution Law Aimed at ‘Johns’ Also”, Albany Herald, March 9 1979.
- “METRO AND GEORGIA BRIEF: Panel Tightens Prostitution Laws”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 30 1996.
- “Proposal Extending ‘No-Crusing’ Hours Expected Monday”, Midtown Patch, April 16 2012.
- “Midtown’s No-Cruising Hours Extended”, Midtown Patch, July 3 2012.
- “Midtown No Cruising Signs Changing”, Midtown Patch, August 22 2012.
- “Part of the Landscape: Detangling Prostitution from Midtown Atlanta,” NBC/WXIA-TV 11, November 19 2015.
“Dear John” Campaign:
- Public Service Announcement #1 – Mayor Shirley Franklin (2006)
- Public Service Announcement #2 – Mayor Shirley Franklin (2006)
- Public Service Announcement #3 – “Girl” (2006)
- Public Service Announcement #4 – “John” (2006)
- Atlanta Women’s Agenda “Dear John” Presentation, August 21 2007.
- “A Personal Mission Continues for Shirley Franklin in Combating Trafficking”, WABE 90.1 FM, November 9 2012.
- https://www.mdpi.com/2076 (2017)
- https://www.researchgate.net/Sending Dear John Letter Public Information Campaigns and Movement to End Demand for Prostitution_in Atlanta GA (2018)
- “Atlanta Increases Surveillance of City”, Atlanta Journal Constitution, September 19 2011.
Proposed SOAP Orders:
- “Can SOAP Help Clean Up Midtown’s Prostitution?”, Midtown Patch, April 3 2012.
- “Banished from the City… Proposed Ordinance Cracks Down on Prostitution”, WABE 90.1 FM, February 4 2013.
Proposed John School:
- “Midtown Residents Will Walk Streets to Protest Prostitution”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 28 1985.
- “Crackdown on Prostitution in Midtown Lauded”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 23 1986.
- “NEIGHBORHOODS AGAINST CRIME, PART 3: Midtown Businesses, Residents Join Forces”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 8 1987.
- “Hookers? Not in My Backyard, Midtown Residents Say”, Atlanta Journal Constitution, March 10 1994.
- “Night Vigil Combats Child Prostitution”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 14 2007.
- “Group Shines Night Light on Midtown Safety”, Midtown Patch, March 22 2012.
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “14 Indicted in Connection with Child Sex Trade”, Athens Banner-Herald, January 25 2001.
- “Teen Aids Officers in Pimping Arrests; Two Charged After Kidnap Allegations”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 11 2001.
- “Atlanta Police to Form Special Unit to Combat Child Prostitution”, Athens Banner-Herald, April 29 2001.
- “Jury Finds Man Guilty of Pimping Teen Girl”, Albany Herald, December 22 2002.“Hidden in Plain View: The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Girls in Atlanta”, Alexandra Priebe & Cristen Suhr, Atlanta Women’s Agenda, September 2005“Child Prostitution: The Hidden Crime; It’s Common in Atlanta, Officials Told”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 17 2005.
- “Atlanta’s Mayor Targets Sex Tourism Business”, Beaufort Gazette, November 21 2006.
- “Ending Sex Trafficking of Children in Atlanta”, Nancy A. Boxill & Deborah J. Richardson, Affilia 22.2 (138-149), May 2007.
- “Teen Suicide Spurs War on U.S. Child Prostitution”, Reuters UK, November 29 2007.
- “Child Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Georgia: A 10-Year of the Issue of Child Prostitution in Georgia with Special Emphasis on Child Prostitution in Atlanta”, Interfaith Children’s Movement, August 2009.
- “Child Prostitution Sting Results in 35 Arrests in Atlanta”, Georgia Public Broadcasting, October 27 2009.
- “Men Who Buy Sex with Adolescent Girls: A Scientific Research Study”, The Schapiro Group, 2010.
- “Five Charged with Beating, Caging Prostitute”, CBS/WGCL-TV 46, April 3 2010.
- “Atlanta Female Vice Cops on Prostitution of Young Girls”, WABE-FM 90.1, December 14 2010.
- “Customs Agents: Sex Trafficking Major Problem in Georgia”, CBS/WGCL-TV 46, January 27 2011.
- “Georgia’s Sex Trade Problem: A Fact Sheet”, Georgia Governor’s Office for Children and Families, February 2011.
- “Teen Sex Trafficking in Atlanta”, Examiner, March 4 2011.
- “Sex Trafficking Sad Reality in Cobb, Metro Atlanta”, Marietta Patch, May 2 2011.
- “Sex Trafficking in Atlanta: A Survivor’s Perspective”, Public Square Atlanta, June 28 2011.
- “Atlanta Man Sentenced for Sex Trafficking of Minors”, Press Release, FBI, August 3 2011.
- “Moving the Needle on the Care of Human Trafficking Victims”, Womenetics, April 3 2012.
- “More Girls Pulled into Sex Trafficking”, FOX/WAGA-TV 5, May 7 2012.
- “Fight Against Atlanta’s Human Trafficking Gains Support”, Midtown Patch, July 22 2012.
- “Atlanta’s Faith Community Tackles Sex Trafficking”, Georgia Bulletin, August 2 2012.
- “Reputed Members of the ‘M.O.B.’ Gang Charged with Sex Trafficking of Minors”, Press Release, FBI, September 14 2012.
- “GBI Director Vernon Keenan Updates the State’s War on Child Sex Trafficking”, WABE-FM 90.1, September 17 2012.
- “GA Man Convicted of Sex Trafficking Gets Life”, CBS/WGCL-TV 46, September 20 2012.
- “Teen Tells Police Man Tried to Force Her into Prostitution”, CBS/WGCL-TV, 46 October 4 2012.
- “Atlanta Jewish Community Vows to Fight Child Sex Trafficking”, WABE-FM 90.1, November 5 2012.
- “Educating Men in the Fight Against Child Sex Trafficking”, WABE-FM 90.1, November 9 2012.
- “Atlanta is No. 1 Hub for Human Trafficking, Buckhead Cascade Links Launch Campaign to Fight It”, Atlanta Daily World, November 14 2012.
- “Ga. Man Arrested on a Child Sex Trafficking Charge”, Fox News Atlanta, January 10 2013.
- “More than 20 Arrested on Ga. Prostitution Charges”, CBS/WGCL-TV 46, April 10 2013.
- “Four Arrested in Gwinnett Prostitution Case”, WSB-AM 750, May 23 2013.
- “Atlanta Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Pimping, Raping Teenage Girl”, Franklin Daily Journal, September 9 2013.
- “Joaquin Mendez-Hernandez, Accused Pimp, Gets Life in Sex Trafficking Case”, Huffington Post, February 19 2014.
- “Sex-Trafficking Ring Leader Sentenced to Life in Prison”, Atlanta Daily Report, February 20 2014.
- “Atlanta Man Sentences in Sex Trafficking Case,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 13 2014.
- “2 Sentenced in Atlanta Teen Sex Trafficking Case,” ABC/WSB-TV 2, September 29 2014.
- “Police: High-End Prostitution Ring Busted in Dunwoody,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 31 2014.
- “Atlanta Man Gets Life in Prison for Prostituting, Imprisoning Girl,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 10 2015.
- “Atlanta Cops: Woman Escapes Kidnappers, Prostitution Plot,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 22 2015.
- https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/north-fulton-county/metro-sex-trafficking-sting-rescues-nearly-160-children-authorities-say (2018)
- https://apnews.com/article/ga-state-wire-us-news (2020)
- https://www.ajc.com/news/16-suspected-sex-trafficking-victims-among-20-children-rescued-in-metro-atlanta (2021)
- https://www.wsbtv.com/former-sex-trafficking-victim-attempting-save-metro-atlanta-girls-similar-circumstance (2022)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Editorial: Helping Prostitution’s Victims”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 31 1986.
- “Atlanta Police Sweeps Yield Nearly 200 Arrests; Undercover Operations in Two Crime-Ridden Areas Lead to Drug and Prostitution Charges”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 25 1998.
- “Atlanta Police Reclaiming the Streets: By Teaming Up with Officers from Different Precincts, the Multi Zone Initiative Has Cleared Neighborhoods of Drugs and Prostitution”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 22 1998.
- “Can Midtown Rid Itself of Prostitution?”, Midtown Patch, March 26 2012.
- “Task Force Crafting Prostitution Ordinance Debates Punishment or Treatment for Sex Workers”, Creative Loafing, June 13 2013.
- “Midtown Residents Ask State for Harsher Prostitution Laws”, ABC/WSB-TV 2, January 17 2014.
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
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