East Hempfield Township, PA

Tactics Used

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

East Hempfield Township is a community in west-central Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with a population of roughly 24,000. Prostitution has a long history within the county, as documented in historical documents dating back to the 1880s and through Temperance efforts to abolish the open trade in brothels in the early 1900s. In contemporary times, prostitution has posed persistent and visible problems in the area, and has generated numerous complaints to police. The county has also documented cases of sex trafficking of minors, and targeted homicides of women selling sex. For example, in November 2013 a 17-year-old girl was among seven people charged in a prostitution investigation at motels along Route 30 in East Lampeter Township. Two alleged pimps were among those also arrested in the investigation. The juvenile was released to her parents. Officials said prostitution has long been an issue along the Route 30 strip, particularly in inexpensive motel rooms, and that the problem has grown in recent years.

To reduce demand for commercial sex, the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office has worked with local police departments to incorporate the use of street-level reverse stings since the early 1990s.  In 2022 the newly formed Lancaster County Human Trafficking Task Force has also begun to conduct operations specifically designed to combat the demand. For example, in March, 2022, fourteen people were arrested in the Lancaster County Human Trafficking Task Force’s first operation, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.  The operation was a prostitution sting involving an online advertisement and an East Hempfield Township hotel, targeting people who “perpetuate the demand for human trafficking and prostitution,” the district attorney’s office said. An undercover female officer made contact with more than 100 people during the eight-hour operation. The people all had responded to the online ad and made arrangements to pay money for sexual activity, ranging from $80 to $200.  The 14 who were arrested physically met with the undercover officer. The scores of additional contacts were made by phone.  The identities of the arrested sex buyers were included in news releases about the operation. District Attorney Heather Adams said,

“The operation was directly aimed at reducing the demand for commercial sex. Those who patronize prostitution in our community fuel traffickers who fill that demand with victims.” 

The fact that 100 people called shows that there’s a demand for this in Lancaster. So this is the first step. It’s attacking the demand. If the demand goes away, then there’s not going to be any place for the victims.”

One of the sex buyers pleaded guilty to patronizing charges and was sentenced him to one year of probation and ordered to complete online “John school” — a class “intended to educate people who solicit sex to prevent them from reoffending.” Depending on their cases, the other defendants were directed to perform community service for up to 40 hours, attend an online john school, and or serve a period of probation for one year. The charge of “patronizing prostitutes” in PA is a third-degree misdemeanor, which carries a fine of $250 to $5,000, or up to 90 days in prison or both, unless courts order modified charges or allow for diversion options such as conditional suspended or altered sentences if they comply with specified requirements, such as john schools or community service.

For the purposes of Demand Forum, we are not counting an online program of unknown origins and content as a “john school.” Since the online product used for this local sex buyer was not named in available sources, it is impossible to know the content, format, and extent of the education program. It is possible that a well designed and executed online program could be a beneficial alternative to in-person or live virtual classes or sessions. However, our examination of the structure and content of some online programs suggests that they do not necessarily contain the key elements of successful educational or treatment programming. It is possible for individuals to simply “click through” the material in some online classes without engaging it seriously (or at all), and the online classes do not offer the possibility of interactive engagement with sex buyers, to process or challenge any offender’s individuals perceptions or meet their individual educational or therapeutic needs. The online options also do not feature interactions with key experts and stakeholders, such as commercial sex and trafficking survivors, or professionals from public health or law enforcement.  The multidimensional curricula, engagement, and presence of expert practitioners and stakeholders are key elements of the “john school” model, in the conceptions and the typology used to guide Demand Forum.

Key Partners

  • Lancaster County Human Trafficking Task Force
  • Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office
  • East Hempfield Township Police Department

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings; Identity Disclosure, Community Service:

Background on Sex Trafficking in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Pennsylvania
Type City
Population 24614
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