Denver, CO

Tactics Used

Buyer Arrests
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.”

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the city . For example, in October, 2008, a federal judge in Colorado resigned amid allegations of misconduct, specifically, that he had patronized prostituted persons, according to court documents. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the complaints against the judge contingent upon his resignation. In a court order, Chief Circuit Judge said further pursuit of the complaints were unnecessary in light of the man’s resignation. He said that misconduct procedures apply only to active federal judges, noting that the Judge had resigned. The sex buyer had also faced an allegation from a prostituted woman that he had asked her to lie to investigators.

In another case in January, 2016, an undercover operation lasting two days resulted in the arrests of 10 child predator suspects, including a teacher at a school in Denver. The 10 men were arrested on charges of attempted trafficking of a minor for sexual servitude, attempted solicitation of a child for prostitution, and attempted sexual assault on a child. The cases were prosecuted by the Adams County District Attorney’s Office. One defendant was a teacher at Warren Village in Denver before he was terminated. The operation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and was assisted by detectives from the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, the Commerce City Police Department and the Colorado State Patrol.

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 male sex buyers.  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

National Assessment Survey and Interviews

John Schools:

Reverse Stings:

Web Stings:

Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Allegations:

Auto Seizure:


SOAP Orders:


Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

  • “Stabbing Victim Struck, Killed as She Runs onto Freeway”, Colorado Springs Gazette, April 8 1992.
State Colorado
Type City
Population 588349
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