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Gordon Heights is a hamlet and census-designated area with roughly 4,200 residents within the town of Brookhaven, located in Suffolk County on Long Island, New York. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been documented as problems within the town and surrounding areas for decades. To address the consumer demand underlying the area’s commercial sex market, which provides the revenue stream for all sex trafficking, the Gordon Heights Community Watch has been known to videotape sex trade activity, and send letters to the homes of suspected sex buyers loitering in areas known for prostitution. For example, in 1991, news outlets reported that a Gordon Heights Community Watch group started writing letters to the wives and mothers of those arrested for soliciting prostituted women, and sending video evidence of suspected sex buyers to police.
In 1993, reports indicated that prostitution had “invaded” residential streets and schoolyards, and members of a neighborhood watch group began patrolling their streets with video cameras as part of a community policing program. Two family members in Gordon Heights said they had been videotaping prostituted women and suspected sex buyers for two and half years, using the tapes to scare sex buyers out of the neighborhood. The videotaping by community volunteers was done with the approval and guidance of the police. Twelve volunteers patrolled the neighborhood in teams of two and were required to call the police before going out to videotape, so cruisers could be in the area. The volunteers were mostly parents of school-aged children. As they patrolled, one volunteer wrote down license plate numbers and car descriptions while the other taped situations that appeared to be prostitution transactions. The teams were instructed by police to leave the area after witnessing these situations, to avoid confrontations.
- Gordon Heights Community Watch
- Suffolk County Police Department
Cameras, Letters, Neighborhood Action:
- Newsday – Long Island, NY, June 13, 1991. Dear John letters battling prostitution by writing to wives of men arrested.
- Tape-a-John plan working (1991)
- http://www.nytimes.com/town-puts-prostitutes-on-videotape (1993)
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- https://www.nytimes.com/1crack-addiction-is-forcing-prostitutes-onto-the-streets (1990)
- https://www.lifamilies.com/chat/topic.Highlight (2005)
- https://www.city-data.com/what-your-biggest-concern-gordon-heights (2008)
- “Undercover Investigation into Prostitution Leads to Four Arrests”, Suffolk Police Blog, November 3 2011.
- http://www.newsday.com/cops-3-arrested-at-west-babylon-massage-parlor (2012)
- “8 Arrested in Suspected Drug, Prostitution Ring”, ABC/WABC-TV 7, August 13 2012.
- https://www.longislandpress.com/long-islands-human-trafficking-crisis-thrives-in-shadows (2020)
- https://www.newsday.com/long-island/coram-community-improvement-project (2022)