Huntington, WV

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

Huntington is a city located along the Ohio River in West Virginia. It is the second largest city in the state, with approximately 46,000 residents. Prostitution has been reported in the community for decades, and has generated complaints to law enforcement and city officials. In recent years, the opiod crisis has been cited as a reason for the growth in commercial sex locally.

To combat a growing drug and commercial sex trade, the Huntington Police Department has conducted a series of mass roundups targeting the city’s sex sellers and drug distributors.  While the majority of its operations have focused on commercial sex providers, the HPD has successfully led at least four street-level reverse sting operations resulting in a total of 38 arrests.

Police have been aided by “numerous” civilian complaints and tips, and have instituted an identity disclosure policy to deter sex buyers. The department has also partnered with local community groups to establish The Neighborhood Institute,  an organization that holds monthly public forums to discuss current issues.

In 2015 a web-based reverse sting was conducted by the Charleston Police Department’s Special Enforcement Unit. Within minutes of posting an ad, men began answering them, and in less than three days more than 50 people contacted the number listed in the ad. Several of the men arranged to meet the person they believed was a prostituted woman at a nearby hotel, and offered money in exchange for sex. Once the deal was made, police moved in.  A total of six men were arrested and charged with engaging in prostitution, including a minister, a steel worker and a West Virginia county superintendent.

In late 2015, city officials announced they would begin using an electronic billboard along a major thoroughfare to “warn prospective customers of prostitutes that their picture will be displayed on the billboard if they are arrested.”  Police officials in 2018 said that the department had used billboards to display publicly the photos of men caught soliciting prostituted persons.

In May 2018 it was reported that the “Johns of Huntington” Facebook group had been formed to publicize the identities of those providing the revenue stream for prostitution and sex trafficking. Residents of West Huntington had been upset by prostitution activity in their neighborhoods, arguing that it helps support local drug dealers, spreads diseases, makes it unsafe for children outside, and attracts sexual predators into the area. Neighbors had formed Facebook groups such as Johns of Huntington and posted pictures of men picking up women.

Key Partners

  • Huntington Police Department
  • Informal neighborhood coalitions

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Billboards to Disclose Identities, Deter Sex Buyers:

Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Neighborhood Action:

Anti-Loitering/Anti-Beckoning Law:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State West Virginia
Type City
Population 46139
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