Cedar Rapids, IA

Tactics Used

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

Cedar Rapids is a city of approximately 126,000 residents, located in Linn County in eastern Iowa.  Investigative journalists and federal and local law enforcement have found pervasive sex trafficking and prostitution in the area.  The first known instance of reverse stings in the city occurred in 1994.  A three-week crackdown focusing on “customers” yielded 52 john arrests.  Cedar Rapids police have periodically conducted both street level and web based reverse stings, averaging about 1-2 operations each year since 2007. In 2012, a three day web-based operation netted 37 arrests occurring in local hotels. The names, ages, and hometowns of arrested sex buyers have been reported to the public. The police also noted using surveillance cameras in pursuit of demand reduction efforts.

In May, 2019, Cedar Rapids was assessing whether a “john school” would be a good fit in the community. Interest surfaced as Cedar Rapids was adopting an ordinance intended to crack down on illegal massage businesses and help women who may be caught up in the business because of human trafficking.  The concept is to provide men education about the negative effects of human trafficking and sex trafficking in hopes they will learn the consequences of their behavior. In exchange, the men would not be saddled with criminal charges. The city’s nuisance property abatement program manager was tasked with assessing the program, and concluded that the program would be best done pre-arrest as opposed to post-arrest, which then makes it a program run by the city of Cedar Rapids. She also considered a day or two educational program similar to programs for those who’ve received a drunken driving charge, and would be geared to first-time offenders and not egregious cases. It was too early to assess the Linn County Attorney’s Office’s support for the program, but officials were playing a role in exploring it.


Key Sources

State Iowa
Type City
Population 126396
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