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Delray Beach is a city of 68,000, located along the southeastern coast of Florida in Palm Beach County. Prostitution, occurring both at street-level and within adult-oriented businesses, has posed serious problems in the community for several decades. For example, in February 2018, two Delray Beach men were arrested and faced human-trafficking charges after city police alleged they sex trafficked at least three women. At least one of the women came to South Florida for drug treatment, and all three women are suffering from opioid addictions, and one of the accused sex traffickers supplied them with drugs. One of the women described the men’s actions as slavery, and another victim told police that one of the men would beat her if she did not turn over all of her prostitution earnings. In addition to human trafficking, commercial sex has been associated with a host of related crimes in Delray Beach, including multiple documented assaults and robberies of prostituted women, and at least one report of a young child being brought by a prostituted woman to a commercial sex transaction. In 1994, a prostituted woman was shot and killed outside her home.
In an effort to reduce prostitution in the area, the Delray Beach Police Department began conducting reverse stings in 1976. Early operations were conducted at street-level, using female undercover officers as decoys along major thoroughfares. As early as 1988, the department began sharing the names and other identifying information about arrestees with major news outlets (e.g., the Boca Raton News). In the early 1990s, city officials considered taking out an advertisement in a local newspaper publicizing the names’ of individuals arrested for prostitution-related offenses, but it is unclear if such an ad was every placed.
A handful of county-level ordinances have also been used to determine sentences of sex buyers arrested in Delray Beach. Individuals convicted of solicitation, for example, may have their license suspended, and/or may be served SOAP orders barring them from re-entering areas of the county associated with commercial sex sales.
Loss of employment is also a consequence of buying sex in the county. For example, in 1992, a former Delray Beach Police Department officer was placed on paid administrative leave following allegations that the former officer had solicited sex from a prostituted woman in lieu of her arrest. Upon further investigation, officials learned that this had occurred on multiple instances. The department later officially fired the sex buyer as a result of his arrest.
In February 1990, the Palm Beach County Circuit Court established on of the first john schools in the United States, four years before the launch of San Francisco‘s First Offender Prostitution Program. The prostitution diversion program, named the “Risk Education for Sex Offenders” program was presented as an alternative to serving time in jail for first-time male offenders, arrested for soliciting prostitution in Palm Beach County. The course was composed of a two-hour class, a HIV blood test, mandatory attendance at four court hearings for prostituted women, and “reading a psychological profile of a prostitute who was diagnosed with AIDS.” Following a reverse sting in 1993, a Palm Beach County Judge meted out the following penalties for charges of solicitation:
- six months’ probation at $40 per month
- successful completion of the “Risk Education for Sex Offenders”
- attend class
- take an HIV/sexually transmitted diseases blood test
- pay $25 to see a movie about safe sex
- payment of $175 in court costs
- completion of a minimum of eight hours of community service
Although it is unclear how long the aforementioned program remained in effect, in October 2009, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that its current incarnation, the Prostitution Impact Prevention Education (PIPE) program –– had been offering a diversion option to male sex buyers since 2000. The program is administered by the West Palm Beach Police Department; it is limited to first-time offenders and includes a mandatory health education course. Between 2000 and 2009, 3,000 male sex buyers reportedly completed the program. Comprised of a five-hour lecture with “speakers from law enforcement, mental and physical health experts, and at times a former prostitute lecture in the class about the dark side of hiring a lady (or gentleman) of the night, or being one,” it allowed first-time offenders who complete the course, to submit an STD test, avoid re-arrest, and the opportunity to expunge the charge from their record and avoid a conviction for solicitation. In 2009, the course was offered 3-4 times a year, in classes of ~75 participants, in both Spanish and English.
In February 2016, following the completion of a sting, media outlets interviewed the PIPE program’s founder, Gail Levine, who suggested that between 2000 and 2015 more than 3,700 first time offenders had completed the john school course and only 22 have re-offended. In 2019, an international human trafficking ring was uncovered during an undercover investigation into Jupiter’s Orchids of Asia Day Spa, which led to the arrest of the spa’s owner and manager, in addition to 25 alleged sex buyers, including the New England Patriots owner, Robert Kraft and former Citigroup president, John Havens. The arrested sex buyers were arrested on misdemeanor charges of prostitution and could face up to a year in jail, community service and half-day class educating sex buyers about the dangers of unprotected sex, the abuse prostituted women endure, and the legal implications of their actions. The sex buyers were referred to the Prostitution Impact Prevention Education (PIPE) program. She stated that the program aims to educate men arrested for solicitation of prostitution on the violence, drugs, and diseases that are rampant within the illicit sex business. By 2020, 4,200 first time offenders had completed the program with only a 1% recidivism rate. Upon completion of the program charges are dismissed. According to records, as of 2021, the program remains in operation.
More recent news reports indicate that a variation of this basic program model continues to operate within the county. A local organization, headed by CEO Becky Dymond, helping sex trafficking survivors, collaborates with the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office to combat prostitution and sex trafficking. For over 13 years, West Palm Beach-based Hepzibah House and members of the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office have lead a class for people — mostly men — who’ve been arrested on prostitution and solicitation charges. The program is called “The Buyers and Sellers’ School,” or “Palm Beach County John School.” It works through the courts as a diversion program, and the goal is rehabilitation through participation in educational and therapeutic courses like the facts and myths of prostitution. Participants hear from survivors who hope to help stop the pattern of targeting vulnerable naïve runaways or troubled teens who often become addicted to drugs or alcohol. There is also a similar class for those survivors who are taken into custody. For those who agree to enter the program and complete it, the original charge will be cleared through the D.A.’s Office. This program is for those who are facing misdemeanor solicitation or prostitution charges. Prostitution is a felony after the third charge – and such offenders are ineligible for the program. More information on the program is available through the Hepzibah House website.
National Assessment Survey
- “Hookers, Clients Take Class to Avoid Jail,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, April 1 1991.
- https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1993-03-02-vw-41-story.html (1993)
- Anti-Hooker crusade grows (1993)
- “Prostitution Prevention Program Hooks Johns,” Palm Beach Post, October 18 2000.
- “Sheriff’s Office Lures ‘Johns’ to Class,” Palm Beach Post, July 11 2001.
- “Pay For Sex, Get Lesson Instead,” Tampa Tribune, October 7 2001.
- “Tackling Demand for Prostitution,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, May 5 2003.
- “School for ‘Johns’ Tries to Scare Sex Solicitors Straight,” Palm Beach Post, July 23 2006.
- Class Teaches about Risks of Prostitution (2009)
- PIPE Founder Reports Only 22 Participants Out of 3,200 Have Reoffended from 2000 to 2015 (2016)
- https://www.palmbeachpost.com/schooling-johns-how-palm-beach-county-handles-prostitution-arrests (2019)
- Prostitution Impact Prevention Education (PIPE)
- https://www.theledger.com/human-trafficking-probes-focus-target-johns (2019)
- International Human Trafficking Ring Uncovered in West Palm Beach, FL (2019)
- 4,200 First Time Offenders Complete the PIPE program, Only 1% Recidivism Rate
- Hepzibah House
- Hepzibah House Hosts John School in West Palm Beach Florida (2019)
- https://cbs12.com/group-unveils-palm-beach-county-john-school-for-buyers-and-sellers-of-human-trafficking (2021)
Street-Level Reverse Stings with Shaming:
- “Decoy Prostitutes– Police Entrapment?” Palm Beach Daily News, July 4 1976.
- “Five Arrested, Charged with Soliciting Prostitutes,” Boca Raton News, July 10 1987.
- “Delray Police Fight Oldest Profession,” Boca Raton News, August 16 1987.
- “6 Arrested in Delray,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, December 24 1987.
- “19 Arrested in Delray Prostitution Sweep,” Palm Beach Post, April 8 1988.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 17 Offenders,” Boca Raton News, May 13 1988.
- “Prostitute Sweep Collects More Suspects,” Boca Raton News, June 16 1988.
- “Delray Soliciting Sting Nets Bailiff, 11 Others,” Boca Raton News, April 18 1989.
- “Delray, Boynton Soliciting Sting Nets 26 Arrests,” Boca Raton News, May 14 1989.
- “Delray Beach Prostitution Bust Nets 13,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, July 9 1989.
- “100 Arrested in Prostitution Sweep,” Palm Beach Post, September 24 1989.
- “Eight Men Arrested during Prostitution Sting,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, April 14 2002.
- “Prostitution Sting Nabs Teacher, Dentist, City Employee,” FOX/WFLX-TV 29, October 7 2009.
- “Delray Might Publish Names of Alleged Johns,” Palm Beach Post, January 14 1993.
- “Boynton Mayor Also Wants to Publish Names of Johns,” Palm Beach Post, January 16 1993.
- “Boynton Votes to Publish Johns’ Names,” Palm Beach Post, January 20 1993.
- “Delray Institutes Programs Aimed at Prostitution; Offenders to Face Felony Charges,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, October 29 2003.
Background on Local Sex Trafficking:
- “Forcing Wife to Prostitution Charged to Man,” Palm Beach Post, July 30 1958.
- https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/delray-men-facing-human-trafficking-prostitution-charges (2018)
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Delray Police Seeking Robber of Prostitute,” Palm Beach Post, February 3 1982.
- “Rape Suspect Could Have Struck Twice,” Palm Beach Post, February 5 1982.
- “State Board Considering Sentencing; Delray Man Makes Appeal for Life Imprisonment,” Palm Beach Post, November 9 1983.
- “Man Robbed by Prostitute,” Boca Raton News, March 12 1984.
- “Man Beats, Robs Prostitute,” Boca Raton News, January 4 1991.
- “Delray Prostitute Shot Dead Outside Her Home,” Boca Raton News, February 22 1994.
- “Former Cop Charged in Prostitute’s Death,” Lakeland Ledger, March 5 1994.
- “Ex-Cop Pleads Guilty in Slaying; Prostitute Reported Having Sex with Delray Ex-Cop,” Boca Raton News, December 14 1994.
- “Man Arrested in Delray Rape, Beating,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, July 11 1995.
- “Authorities Charge Man with Beating Prostitute; Officials Say Suspect May Be Responsible for at Least 13 Attacks,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, September 24 2009.
- “Woman Offering Sex for Money Brings Baby after Making Deal; Delray Sting Nets 10 Prostitution Arrests,” Boca Raton News, October 5 1992.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “10 Arrested in Prostitution Crackdown,” Boca Raton News, August 24 1984.
- “Accused Prostitute with AIDS Ordered to Wear a Monitor,” Lakeland Ledger, September 28 1985.
- “Victim of AIDS Released; Woman Guilty of Prostitution,” Palm Beach Post, November 6 1985.
- “Accused Prostitute Monitored Due to AIDS Dies,” Palm Beach Post, June 17 1986.
- “Prostitution Plagues Delray Block,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, May 8 1987.
- “Police Round up Trio on Prostitution Charges,” Boca Raton News, October 8 1988.
- “Undercover Police Arrest 65 in Massive Prostitution Bust,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, August 20 1989.
- “Prostitution Sweep Nets 5,” Boca Raton News, July 10 1990.
- “Police Sting Operation Nets Arrests of 2 Delray Women for Prostitution; Women Allegedly Propositioned Undercover Officers,” Boca Raton News, May 20 1991.
- “Officer Suspended after Sex Charges; Prostitute Says They Had Sex in Police Cruiser,” Boca Raton News, October 21 1992.
- “Fired Delray Officer Guilty of Sex with Prostitute,” Boca Raton News, April 10 1993.
- https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-1993-01-17-9301040124-story.html (1993)
- “‘Therapists’ Face Sex Charges; Davie, Delray Massage Centers Raided,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, July 27 1996.
- “Delray Has Tool Combat Nuisances; Prostitution, Drugs Are Board’s Target,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, January 22 1997.
- “2 Escape Jail in Massage Parlor Case; Plea Agreement Nets Probation for Owner, Manager in Delray,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, December 19 1997.
- “Nine Arrested in Raid at House in Delray,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, July 11 1998.
- “5 Delray Women Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” Palm Beach Post, December 12 2001.
- “4 at Delray Massage Parlor Charged with Prostitution,” Palm Beach Post, May 5 2007.
- “Delray Beach Madam Gets House Arrest, Forfeits Cash,” Palm Beach Post, October 16 2007.
Sex Buyer Fired and/or Resigned Due to Arrest: