Dover, DE

Tactics Used

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

Dover is the capitol city of Delaware, and has approximately 37,500 residents. It is also the government seat of Kent County. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified as substantial problems in the city for decades.  This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is child sex trafficking. For example, in May 2017, two children were rescued after police found them to be prostituted by adults on Delaware State Police, the FBI Wilmington office and the Delaware Department of Justice worked together to arrest five people in connection with the case.  State had been contacted by a foster parent who reported the 16-year-old in her custody was missing and might be prostituting using Detectives found a listing on the website with photographs that appeared to be the missing teen and confirmed her identity with the foster parent. A search of law enforcement records for the phone number listed linked it to two indivduals who were eventually found to be exploiting the teens in commercial sex.  The defendants were both charged with human trafficking/sexual servitude; promoting prostitution; receiving stolen property; and conspiracy.

Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response.  To identify and apprehend local sex buyers driving the prostitution and sex trafficking markets, initiatives aimed at reducing consumer level demand for commercial sex in Dover have included reverse stings, shaming, and a “john school” education program. The Dover Police Department has also assisted other towns in conducting revere stings. For example in November, 2017, the Dover Police Department and Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security assisted in a sting operation in Seaford, and the Seaford Police Department said they will assist Dover in upcoming enforcement efforts.

Dover John School

For several years, the city operated a john school program that was developed and launched in an effort supported by Weed and Seed funding.  The John School operated as part of a Weed & Seed program on a five-year grant that was in place from 2001-2006. After funding ended, the city of Dover supported the John school for two more years, until 2007-08. The school ended in 2008, when the facilitator moved to another position.  In Dover, one of the main goals and objectives of the Weed & Seed grant was to remove prostitution and johns, as well as drugs – these two issues were linked in the targeted area. As part of this effort, the city worked closely with US attorney’s office and local PD on stings and on the criteria for setting up the john school, i.e., to determine their goals and objectives.

The john school in Dover was court ordered, and was not a diversion program: Johns had to attend the school as a mandate of the sentence and a condition of their parole. The John school in Dover was a one-day class, which took place over four hours. The curriculum was delivered via power point presentation in a group setting. Johns received certification to take back to their probation and parole officers to show that they had completed the course. Collaborating agencies who presented or did health screening, including the state probation and parole staff and public health officials. Since the John school was court mandated to attend and also condition of parole, the probation and parole officers talked about breaking conditions of parole. They also provided the space for the john school, which was at their adult day-reporting facility. Kent County Counseling did HIV testing, and a staff person presented information on safe sex practices, different types of diseases, and diseases associated with prostitution. They also distributed free condoms. The cost of the john school was covered by the fees that the johns paid; the program was self-sustaining.


Key Partners

  • Dover Police Department
  • Kent County Sheriff’s Department
  • Weed and Seed Program

Key Sources

State Delaware
Type City
Population 37538
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