Gainesville, FL

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

Gainesville is a city of approximately 140,000 residents, located in north central Florida’s Alachua County. The city has had chronic and well-documented prostitution and sex trafficking problems for decades, and has been cited in news reports as the operational base for sex trafficking rings exploited both adult and child victims. Prostituted persons and sex buyers alike have reported being assaulted during prostitution transactions, and women involved in prostitution have been specifically targeted for homicide in the city. A serial killer who murdered sexually exploited women in other Florida cities (Ocala, Sarasota, Pensacola, and Mariana) and in Mobile, Alabama, was also the key suspect in the 1982 murder of a prostituted woman in Gainesville.

The Gainesville Police Department has conducted street-level reverse stings since at least 1989, in response to complaints from both businesses and residents, and as a means to undermine the commercial sex market that drives sex trafficking and other serious felonies. The GPD often releases the names of  individuals arrested for prostitution-related offenses, including johns, and periodically posts arrestees’ identities to the department’s official website. In the early 1990s, police collaborated with Florida prosecutors to release the names of individuals on a “client list” associated with a local prostitution ring. During anti-prostitution operations, the GPD has twice found young children in the vehicles of men attempting to buy sex from their undercover officers. In 2015, Gainesville police tracked down a man suspected of committing an armed robbery near the University of Florida campus and later using a stolen cell phone to set up “dates” with prostituted women he had met online. Police were waiting for the man at one of the prearranged meetings. In 2018, a more traditional web-based reverse sting focusing on those seeking to buy access to sexually abuse with minors was conducted, and a Gainesville man was arrested after responding to a decoy ad for a 16 year old.

Arrests of sex buyers have also occurred when investigating crimes against real victims, rather than during stings using police decoys.  For example, in March, 2023, a 22 year old man was arrested and charged with attempted sexual battery, felony battery, soliciting prostitution, and drug possession after allegedly trying to pay a homeless woman for oral sex and then assaulting her. A Gainesville Police Department officer was flagged down by a woman walking down the road at Butler Plaza; the woman reportedly had blood covering her face and running down her neck. The officer called an ambulance and later reported that the woman had a broken nose and had lost a tooth.  The woman told police that after her boyfriend went into a store, the sex buyer asked her if she wanted to make some money and offered to pay her for oral sex. She said he was very persistent and offered her $400, but she continually refused. She said he then pulled his pants down while she was sitting on a bench and put his penis in her face, so she got up and told him to leave her alone. He then punched her in the face. The man’s identity was included in news reports.

Although they do not appear to be used frequently, in at least two cases, men convicted of solicitation in Gainesville have received SOAP orders. First, in March 1997, an individual accepted a plea agreement after being apprehended during a reverse sting; in exchange for deferred prosecution, he agreed to “pay money to the Clerk of the Court and the Victim’s Memorial Fund or [complete] 15 hours of community service,” and “stay out of specific high prostitution areas in the city.” More recently, following his conviction for “scheming to defraud and embezzlement” in 2009, a former GPD officer charged with embezzling the department and soliciting prostituted women on the job received 24 months of probation and a mandate to “not enter Gainesville and Alachua County’s mapped prostitution areas.”

Employment loss is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred in the city.  For example, in August, 1994, a University of Florida associate professor embroiled in a prostitution case announced his resignation, effective in June 1995. UF conducted its own investigation into the man’s involvement with a “nude-dancing service” that authorities claim was a front for prostitution, and “employed” (i.e., trafficked) minors for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The professor, 43, was not charged in the case but did tell authorities he had sex with a woman and and her 16-year-old daughter, who was employed by the “nude-dancing service.” The man was unlikely to face charges in exchange for his cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of the dancing/escort criminal enterprise. The sex buyer was hired at UF in July 1978 and was an associate professor in UF’s College of Medicine, Department of Neuroscience.

Key Partners

  • Gainesville Police Department

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:

Employment Loss:

Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:

Community Service:

SOAP Orders:

Client List:

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:

Local Prostitution Ordinance:

State Florida
Type City
Population 140398
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