Harrisburg, PA

Tactics Used

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

Harrisburg is the capital city of Pennsylvania, and has a population of about 50,000.  The city is known to have been on regional sex trafficking circuits since the 1980s, if not before, and local prostitution has been a persistent problem.  Local arrests for child sex trafficking have also occurred over the years, including a case in 2015 in which a teacher and former high school basketball head coach was apprehended attempting to buy sex from a teenaged girl.  To address problems of local prostitution and sex trafficking, the Harrisburg Police Department has conducted street level reverse stings since the 1980’s and has continued to conduct such operations (as well as online stings) on an “as needed” basis.  Community complaints play a role in the police deciding to conduct reverse stings and other prostitution operations.  The city is also known to have been a stop on a domestic sex trafficking circuit that includes other central Pennsylvania cities such as Allentown, Reading, Scranton, and Wilkes-Barre, and continues into upstate New York (e.g., Schenectady, Albany, Buffalo).  To combat consumer level demand for commercial sex, reversals have occurred up to 20 times per year and identifying information about those arrested is reported in the media.  Arrested sex buyers can also have their vehicles seized. Since 2007, police have also conducted web based stings occasionally. There are also surveillance cameras and neighborhood watch programs in place to reduce the demand for prostitution.

Key Partners

  • Harrisburg Bureau of Police
    • Vice Department

Key Sources

  • Street-Level Reverse Stings with Shaming (after 1978):
State Pennsylvania
Type City
Population 47196
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