Harrisonburg, VA

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

Harrisonburg is a city of roughly 51,000 residents, located in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia, northwest of Charlottesville. Prostitution activity, including incidents of sex trafficking of both minors and adults, has been reported in the community for decades. Cases of prostitution-related homicide have also been documented locally.

In their efforts to reduce the wide range of crimes associated with commercial sex, the Harrisonburg Police Department has conducted at reverse stings aimed at identifying and arresting sex buyers. In early January 2016, local media outlets reported that HPD officers had intercepted “10 people, ranging in age from 19 to 75, [each of whom was] charged with solicitation.” The logistical details of the sting– including whether it was conducted using web-based advertisements or at street level– were not disclosed; select arrestees’ identities were publicized in press. Following the 2016 sting, WHSV-TV reported that over the course of the prior year and a half (i.e., mid-2013 to early 2015), 43 charges had been filed related to prostitution, including 26 male sex buyers and 12 prostituted persons facing charges, as well as five pandering or pimping investigations.

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the city. Among those charged in the January 2016 reverse sting was Eastern Mennonite University’s Vice President for Enrollment Luke Hartman, who resigned soon afterward.

Key Partners

  • Harrisonburg Police Department
  • Eastern Mennonite University

Key Sources

Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure:

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

  • “Didn’t Aid Prostitution, Ex-Tire Firm Officer Says,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 26 1986.
  • “Ex-Tire Executive Guilty of Aiding Prostitution,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 5 1986.
  • “Ex-Tire Firm Official Given Two Weeks in Jail,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 10 1986.
  • “Alleged Prostitution Ring Busted; Harrisonburg Police Nab Five in Trailer,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, April 29 2005.
  • “Prostitution Case Ends with Plea, Man to Spend Year in Jail,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, August 31 2005.
  • “HPD Nabs Three in Prostitution Case,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, August 4 2010.
  • “Police: Prostitution Still a Rarity in City, Trailer Park Raided Twice Since 2005,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, August 6 2010.
  • “3 Nabbed for Prostitution, Trailer Park Site of ’05, ’10 Busts,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, August 30 2011.
  • “Brothel Operator Pleads Guilty to Felony,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, November 23 2011.
  • “NEW: Two Arrested on City Prostitution Charges,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, February 20 2015.
  • “Online Ad Leads to Prostitution Charges in City,” Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, February 21 2015.

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Virginia
Type City
Population 51430
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