Delray Beach, FL

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Cameras
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
Letters
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

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.

John School

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.

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey

John School:

Street-Level Reverse Stings with Shaming:

Shaming:

SOAP Orders:

Background on Local Sex Trafficking:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Child Endangerment:

  • “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:

Sex Buyer Fired and/or Resigned Due to Arrest:

State Florida
Type City
Population 68217
Location
Comments are closed.