Gainesville, FL

Tactics Used

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

Gainesville is a city of approximately 126,000 residents, located in north central Florida’s Alachua County. The city has a chronic and well-documented prostitution problem, and has been cited in news reports as the operational base for sex trafficking rings exploited both adults and minor victims. Sex sellers and 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 sex sellers in other Florida cities (Ocala, Sarasota, Pensacola, and Mariana) and in Mobile, Alabama, was also the key suspect in the 1982 murder of a sex seller 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 2018, a web-based reverse sting focusing on those seeking to buy sex with minors was conducted, and a Gainesville man was arrested after responding to a decoy ad for a 16 year old.

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.”



Key Partners

  • Gainesville Police Department

Key Sources

State Florida
Type City
Population 126047
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