Fayetteville, NC

Tactics Used

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

Fayetteville is a city of approximately 206,000 residents, located about 60 miles south of Raleigh in Cumberland County, North Carolina.  Street prostitution and child sex trafficking have posed considerable problems for the city for decades, with illegal activities frequently concentrated along major roadways leading to and from Fort Bragg, a major U.S. Army installment situated just south of the city.  Violence committed against sex sellers in Fayetteville is well documented.  For example, in May 2009, a women engaged in prostitution was stabbed in the back five times by a john, who admitted to previously murdering a prostituted woman in the city. This predation on sex sellers and trafficking victims in Fayetteville is not an isolated case; a serial killer who specifically targeted women offering prostitution was active in the city in the mid-2000s.  In 2008, police detectives believed several serial rapists were targeting sex sellers, and in subsequent years, at least one was captured.

To address the issue, the Fayetteville Police Department has conducted street-level reverse stings since at least 1976. In March and April of that year, Cumberland County sheriff’s deputies and FPD officers arrested 71 individuals in the city for prostitution-related offenses, including several armed servicemen. As in many of its early operations, the FPD sent both male and female officers undercover, having them pose as both decoy sellers and buyers.

Although it is unclear when Fayetteville law enforcement formally adopted their shaming policy, local newspapers have run the names and other identifying information of arrestees since at least 1976. As operations became more frequent, members of the local media began to publicize the full arrest information (including the name, age, and home address) of each offender, suggesting such details were systematically distributed by law enforcement.

In July 1988, nine johns convicted of soliciting for prostitution in Fayetteville were ordered not to loiter in the area where they had were arrested (namely, the U.S. 401 Bypass and Fort Bragg reservation), but it is unclear if these orders came with enforceable penalties if violated (e.g., re-arrest or fining).

Unusually, the city has on at least one occasion opted to dismiss all of the charges brought against individuals during one of its own prostitution stings. In August 2002, following a July sting that netted 32 men and women for attempting to buy or sell sex, Fayetteville Police decided to dismiss all of the charges levied against those arrested after “they discovered that an officer from another county was caught in an undercover enforcement operation but not charged. At the time, a FPD officer commented that “[they] didn’t condone selective enforcement in an operation.”  However, that dismissal of charges appears to have been an anomaly rather than a change in policy.  Reverse stings have occurred since, including a January 2017 street-level operation resulting in the arrest of 14 sex buyers.

Key Partners

Key Sources

Reverse Stings and Shaming:

SOAP Orders:

Neighborhood Action:

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:

State North Carolina
Type City
Population 171853
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