Easton, PA

Tactics Used

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

Easton is a city of approximately 27,000 residents, located on the eastern edge of the Lehigh Valley near Allentown and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. A number of serious problems resulting from the local commercial sex market have been documented, including the unsolved murder of prostituted women and girls, and child sex trafficking.

The Easton Police Department conducted its first street-level reverse sting in June 1988, resulting in the arrest of 37 johns. Frequent, small-scale john stings continued through the mid-1990s, with officers averaging 3 to 5 arrests in a single operation. Since 1988, arrestees’ names have been publicized in local media outlets.

Easton police report that street prostitution remains visible in some Easton neighborhoods, and cases of sex trafficking have been documented.  In 2008, city officials tried to ameliorate the problems by focusing on demand.  The city established an ordinance that allows local law enforcement to seize the vehicles of individuals arrested for solicitation. Under the ordinance, vehicles may not only be seized but also sold at auction, with the proceeds given to the city. Soon after its enactment, the policy was challenged in a lawsuit against the Easton Police Department, when an arrested john alleged that the value associated with a forfeited vehicle often exceeded the “maximum fine allowable” for a solicitation offense. Soon after, a court demanded all seized vehicles be returned. Today, while the ordinance remains formally in place, it is largely unused.

Easton police continue to encourage (and participate in ongoing dialogue with) local Neighborhood Watch programs to report any and all suspected prostitution activity, and have installed surveillance cameras in known problem areas.

Key Sources

State Pennsylvania
Type City
Population 26094
Location
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