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.  Federal and local law enforcement have fought pervasive sex trafficking and prostitution in the area for decades.  Included in their array of tactics 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.


Key Sources

State Iowa
Type City
Population 126396
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