Fall River, MA

Tactics Used

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

Fall River is a city of approximately 89,000 residents, located 18 miles east of Providence in Bristol County, Massachusetts. Both prostitution and sex trafficking of children are well-documented local problems, and at least one serial killer who specifically targeted prostituted women has operated in the city.  In an effort to curtail prostitution activity in the city, the Fall River Police Department began using street-level reverse stings in 1985. In the city’s second john sting, police used cameras to record would-be sex buyers’ interactions with undercover female officers.

Operations are still periodically conducted as part of the FRPD’s “Operation John” initiative which targets sex buyers as part of a “citywide crackdown on prostitution,” initiated by complaints from residents. Once arrested, johns may have their names and other identifying information distributed to local news outlets.  For example, an operation in October 2013, resulted in the arrest of four sex buyers, whose identities were publicized in news reports.  Other reverse stings include a 2010 operation resulting in 23 arrests throughout the city, and a more localized version conducted in October 2014 resulted in eight arrests.

In October 2017, Fall River Police Vice and Intelligence Unit officers staked out two locations, North Main Street at Pine Street, and South Main Street at Park Street, between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., due to reports of prostitution in those areas. Five males were arrested at the South Main Street at Park Street location, and one male was arrested at the North Main Street and Pine Street location. All were charged with Sexual Conduct for Pay.  Their photos, names and other identifying information were distributed to local news outlets

In April 2018, Fall River police arrested five men who tried to pay undercover officers for sex during a reverse sting at two locations in the city: the corner of South Main and Park streets, and the corner of North Main and Pine streets.  The sting occurred from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on a Friday in response to several complaints from residents and local businesses about prostitution activity. The Fall River Police Department’s Major Crimes, Vice and Intelligence, and Special Operations divisions conducted the reverse sting.  The men’s names and other identifying information were distributed to local news outlets.

In June, 2018, after police received multiple complaints from businesses and residents, police conducted a street-level reverse sting between South Main St. and North Main St. Police arrested 12 men who solicited an undercover female officer, and included photos and other identifying information in press releases. The men were all charged with Sexual Conduct for Pay/ Pay for Sexual Conduct.

Key Partners

  • Fall River Police Department
    • Major Crimes, Vice and Intelligence Division
    • Special Operations Division
  • Fall River City Council’s Public Safety Committee

Key Sources

State Massachusetts
Type City
Population 90905
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