Denver, CO

Tactics Used

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

Denver has longstanding and substantial problems associated with prostitution and child sex trafficking, according to numerous sources.  To combat consumer demand driving both of these crime types, Denver has employed reverse stings, john schools, systematic shaming efforts (John TV and media releases), geographic restraining orders, community service requirements, and auto seizures.  A recent example of a reverse sting in the city is a web-based operation conducted in December 2013.  Six men were arrested and their identities disclosed to the media.  Denver police hope publicity of prostitution stings will help curtail the crime that surges during big events in the city, like the National Western Stock Show.  In a news report following the incident, Sgt. Dennis Bedenbender, supervisor of DPD’s vice unit, is quoted as saying, “girls get raped during these operations so we are trying to go after the johns so they understand we are out here looking for them.”

Denver’s First John School

Denver was one of the “early adopters” of the john school program approach to combating demand for commercial sex.  A program offered by a private therapist, Michael Holtby, was used by the City Attorney’s Office beginning in 1999, and through 2011 operated at no direct cost to taxpayers and processed more than 500 arrested johns.  It was structured as a counseling program, rather than a one-day educational effort.  The program was cancelled in 2011.

Denver’s Second John School

A second john school program was reportedly launched in 2009, and was structured as a one-day educational class.  During interviews conducted for the National Assessment, it was reported that the second john school program was launched because some within the city attorney’s model wanted a program more similar to the FOPP in San Francisco.  For approximately two years, the programs ran concurrently, with some City Attorney staff referring arrestees to the counseling program, and others directing arrestees to the classroom program.  Since 2011, the City & County of Denver are currently using the FOPP-styled john school every other month, attended by about a dozen men each session. It is run by Karina Rodriguez, a social worker with the organization, Better Communities Colorado.


Key Partners

  • Denver Police Department
  • Denver City Attorney’s Office
  • Michael Holtby (counselor in private practice, who operated the john school from 1999-2011)

Key Sources

State Colorado
Type City
Population 588349
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