Austin, TX

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

Austin is a city of roughly 965,000 residents, situated in central Texas’ Travis County. Cases of sex trafficking– involving both adult and minor victims– have been investigated in the city, and prostitution has been identified as a longstanding problem for certain neighborhoods for decades. Prostitution-related homicides, and a wide range of other serious crimes, have also been documented locally.

Among their efforts to reduce the size and scope of the city’s commercial sex market, the Austin Police Department has conducted reverse stings targeting sex buyers since at least 1985. That year, several reverse stings produced the arrests of 40 sex buyers during one week. Numerous reverse stings have been conducted over the subsequent 35+ years; at times, undercover officers have utilized cameras during sting operations to document evidence of solicitation. Since at least 1994, arrested sex buyers have had their names publicized in press. The city has considered using SOAP orders for both sex buyers and prostituted persons, but has not implemented them, to our knowledge.

More recent example include:  In June 2014, media outlets reported that at least one sex buyer had been arrested as part of a web-based reverse sting in Austin. According to reports, “the Austin Police Department posted an online advertisement in the escort section of a website used to solicit prostitution services.” The sex buyer responded to the listing and arranged to meet an undercover female officer at a north Austin hotel and pay her $60 for sex. When he arrived at the location, he was promptly arrested. The man’s name, profession, and mugshot were released to the public. In October 2018, police arrested three men for allegedly trying to pay to sexually abuse underage girls. Special agents posed as minors on the websites CityXGuide, MeetMe and Plenty of Fish. The three men were arrested after showing up at area motels along Interstate 35 to sexually assault girls in exchange for money.

In May 2019, Travis County sheriff’s deputies and state troopers arrested at least six during a prostitution sting at a North Austin hotel targeting men trying to pay for sexual abuse of male and female minors. The Texas Department of Public Safety and the Travis County sheriff’s office launched the sting May 16-17 at a hotel on Koenig Lane near Interstate 35 and U.S. 290. Law enforcement officers created accounts on a website known to be a hub for prostitution. They connected with several men who agreed to come to the hotel to sexually assault a 15-year-old girl for prices ranging from $30 to $75. After investigators communicated with the men online, they waited for them to show up to the hotel and approach a room that had been agreed upon, and then officers moved in to arrest them. All six men were charged with second-degree felony prostitution, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. One man admitted texting a 15-year-old for sex but that the teenager was actually an undercover officer, and had voluntarily written a letter apologizing to the fictional teen’s father.

In March, 2022, two men were arrested on charges of solicitation of prostitution during a web-based reverse sting conducted by the Austin Police Department, Human Trafficking Unit.  One of the men was an Austin Fire Department firefighter. An APD detective placed an ad on a website known to be used to purchase sexual acts. The detective identified himself as a 16-year-old girl. The affidavit stated the firefighter agreed to pay the detective posing as the girl $400 cash for a sexual act, and agreed to meet at a hotel near U.S. 290 and U.S. 183. When he arrived at the hotel room, he was arrested by APD.

John School

In December 2016, Travis County commissioners voted to start a “John School” program aimed at educating men arrested for paying for sex. The John School program would be another option for first-time offenders arrested for the crime to avoid jail time. The program is comprised of an eight hour class that costs $250. Those funds are slated to go toward helping victims of prostitution. The school is not open to people who commit crimes involving minors. County staff project that the fees should cover the costs of the classes. The fees should also generate money for the Phoenix Court, a program designed for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.

Loss of Employment:

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the city. For example, in October of 2020, the Beaumont Police Department, along with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, conducted a two-day prostitution operation with assistance from both the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and McLennan County Sheriff’s Office, focused on targeting sex traffickers and sex buyers in the area. The investigation resulted in the arrest of 26 male sex buyers, two of which were doctors from Beaumont, TX. The arrest of one of the two doctors resulted in the immediate, temporary suspension of his medical license without notice, by the Texas Medical Board. The Texas Medical Board’s disciplinary panel determined that allowing the doctor to continue practicing medicine would pose a threat to public welfare. The second doctor arrested was a psychiatrist that had a history of criminal activity that resulted in the suspension of his license in 2011 by the Texas Medical Board. According to reports from the Texas Medical Board’s website, the psychiatrist’s medical license was temporarily suspended in January of 2011 as a result of a series of complaints from three women – two of whom were patients and one of which was the mother of a juvenile patient. The Medical Board summarized the complaints and their findings in the statement,  The psychiatrist’s license was reinstated in April of 2011, but only after he fulfilled several requirements, one of which was, ironically, for the psychiatrist to undergo an evaluation by another psychiatrist. No further information has been released regarding the status of the sex buyer’s medical license upon his arrest in 2020 for prostitution charges.

Key Partners

  • Austin Police Department
  • Travis County Sheriff’s Office
  • Texas Department of Public Safety
  • FBI
  • Texas Medical Board

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey

Street-Level Reverse Stings (with Disclosure of Identities since at least 1994):

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:


Neighborhood Action:

John School:

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 Texas
Type City
Population 965872
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