Camden, NJ

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

Camden is a city of approximately 72,000 residents, situated across the Delaware River from Philadelphia in Camden County, New Jersey. Prostitution and sex trafficking have posed chronic and visible problems in the city for decades, and at least one serial killer and one serial rapist have targeted prostituted women in Camden and surrounding areas. Camden Police and public officials have reported substantial spillover between the city’s prostitution and drug markets. For this reason, several early anti-prostitution operations were frequently conducted in concert with anti-drug operations. This “dual” strategy reached a peak in the early 2000s, when the CPD established a community policing unit (since disbanded) that specifically targeted prostitution, drug and other “quality of life” offenses.

During this time, news outlets also reported that a local advocacy group, Services Empowering Rape Victims, often assisted with the processing of and provided counseling to individuals arrested for prostitution-related offenses– including male sex buyers. In May 2005, Cherry Hill’s The Courier-Post stated that “law enforcement officials [had taken] a new approach by allowing counselors to talk to the men who were arrested and offer services such as testing for sexually transmitted diseases and additional counseling for problems such as sex addiction.” The same article noted that “if convicted, [sex buyers in Camden] could face one of several penalties, including impoundment of their vehicle, license suspension, mandatory education programs and possible jail time.” Unfortunately, these counseling options and demand-driven strategies have not been documented since, suggesting that the tactics may no longer be used.

Similarly, The New York Times reported that “in 2002 and 2003, the Camden County prosecutor’s office bought ads in two local newspapers, listing those arrested for trying to buy drugs in the city of Camden. By 2004, however, the effort proved too costly and was discontinued. [CCPO] prosecutors also sent postcards to the homes of those charged with soliciting prostitutes, informing their families of their arrests.” Much like its auto seizure and license suspension initiatives, Camden’s “Dear John” postcards appear to have been discontinued.

In late 2012, Camden drew national attention when media reported two particularly troubling cases related to prostitution. In August, city law enforcement released a statement requesting the public’s assistance in finding a suspected serial rapist of Camden prostitutes. In September, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a “surge” of young prostituted women selling sex in front of a local children’s center. Camden police stated at the time that they had arrested 232 people on prostitution-related charges in 11 sweeps targeting prostituted women and one targeting buyers in the previous five months. Understandably frustrated, one officer added, “we know we can’t arrest ourselves out of these problems.”

Since August 2013, New Jersey has had a state law (S2468) that allows police to impound of vehicles used by drug buyers or anyone soliciting or engaging in prostitution. The Camden County Police Department has used the new statute, impounding 40 vehicles in less than three months.  Thirteen people (six from Camden, seven from outside the city) were arrested on August  16 and August 21, 2013, and charged with Soliciting a Prostitute. The suspects were issued a summons and those without outstanding warrants were released. Eight vehicles were impounded by police.  In describing their use of this auto seizure law, Camden Police Chief J. Scott Thomson said,

“Open air drug markets and prostitution create an unhealthy environment for Camden, but more importantly jeopardize the safety of our children. We will continue to suppress both the supply and demand of these illegal acts. By seizing the cars of violators, their ability to commit offenses is significantly reduced.”

In September 2013, the city announced it had undertaken a new initiative aimed at assisting women arrested for offering prostitution. Led by Seeds of Hope Ministries, the program allows a woman, as long as she has no outstanding warrants, to decide whether or not to go to jail or agree to go to a shelter and then rehabilitation. At present, no equivalent option has been developed for sex buyers.

In October, 2015, Camden County Police Detectives conducted a street-level reverse sting operation to catch men soliciting prostituted women along Broadway, which Camden County Police described as “a mecca of prostitution” because of its easy access to a highway and large collection of abandoned buildings.  The Police Department and the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office performed such stings about twice a month on Broadway, sometimes looking for prostituting people, other times focusing on the men soliciting them. Police usually caught about a dozen people during the operations, which can last up to five hours. In the October 2015 operation, two undercover female officers stood on each side of Broadway near Spruce, as a male officer posing as a pimp sat on the steps of a nearby building.  The men they arrested were from all over the region, including the suburbs and the city of Camden, on lunch break from work, or just leaving the office.  Some were professionals. Police had orders not to chase the men if they try to speed off in cars – it would be risky to passersby to give chase to enforce a disorderly persons charge of loitering to commit prostitution. But many of the men are caught quickly, some of whom are married and plead with officers not to tell their wives. Police said that the wives usually find out anyway. Police post the names online of any men they arrest, and tow their vehicles. For the prostituted women, a sergeant with the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office who helped start the operations two perviously, said the goal is to help them. The women are often addicted to heroin or other drugs, and are offered a chance to get off the streets and into rehab, if they don’t have outstanding warrants.


Key Partners

  • Camden County Police Department Metro Division
  • Camden Police Department (disbanded)
  • Camden County Prosecutor’s Office
  • New Jersey State Police
  • Services Empowering Rape Victims
  • Seeds of Hope Ministries

Key Sources

Roadside Johns Counseling:

Street-Level Reverse Stings (with shaming since at least 2006):


“Dear John” Letters:

Auto Seizure:

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 New Jersey
Type City
Population 74002
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