Cedar Rapids, IA

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

Cedar Rapids is a city of approximately 133,000 residents, located in Linn County in eastern Iowa.  Federal and local law enforcement have fought pervasive sex trafficking and prostitution in the area for decades.  Included in the array of tactics used to combat such crimes have been those addressing consumer-level demand for prostitution.  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 announced it was assessing whether a “john school” would be a good fit in the community. Interest in that approach surfaced as Cedar Rapids considered 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 was to provide sex buyers education about the negative effects of prostitution and sex trafficking in hopes they will be deterred after learning 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. They also considered a one or two day 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 unclear whether the Linn County Attorney’s Office supported the program, but officials were exploring it.

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the county. For example, in October, 2011, a Cedar Rapids minister who was arrested in a prostitution sting in Marion resigned. The minister was among nine men arrested after police said they responded to an online advertisement and offered money to an undercover female officer posing as a prostituted woman. The man had been the senior pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church. He was not in church the day after his arrest. Members were later told he resigned for personal reasons.

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey (2012)

Reverse Stings:

Web Based Reverse Stings:

John School:

Loss of Employment, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Iowa
Type City
Population 133125
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