Jefferson County, CO

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

Jefferson County is a county in the U.S. state of Colorado and has a population of approximately 583,00 residents, making it the fourth-most populous county in Colorado, located just southeast of Denver, CO. The county seat is Golden, CO, and the most populous city is Lakewood, CO. Prostitution and child sex trafficking activity has been well-documented in the county. This activity and its ancillary crimes have resulted in complaints to local law enforcement from residents and businesses. Among the more serious issues associated with the local commercial sex market is child sex trafficking. For example, in May 2012, a large-scale prostitution sweep in the Denver metro area confirmed the presence of child sex trafficking and exploitation networks in Lakewood. In September 2015, one of the ring’s sex traffickers was convicted of “eight felony counts including pandering of a child, pimping of a child, keeping a place of child prostitution and soliciting for child prostitution,” and sentenced to up to 120 years in prison. In a separate incident, a traffic stop in February 2014, uncovered a case involving three adults who sex trafficked a 15-year-old girl in Lakewood.

In addition, reports of targeted violence and homicide against prostituted persons has been documented. For example, in the 1980s, prostituted women were found murdered in the city, several of which are believed to be the victims of a prolific serial killer who specifically targeted prostituted persons in the greater Denver area. In May 2022, a man was sentenced to at least 162 years in prison for kidnapping and brutally sexually assaulting multiple homeless women along Colfax Avenue, just west of Denver – including Lakeland. A jury in Jefferson County found the man guilty on 12 criminal charges, including three counts of sexual assault, two counts of second-degree kidnapping, four counts of soliciting for prostitution, one count of attempted sex assault, one count of unlawful sexual contact, and one count of theft.

To combat consumer-level demand for commercial sex, street-level reverse stings have been conducted in the county since at least 1990, if not earlier. These operations are often a collaborative effort between the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and other local and federal law enforcement agencies. At times, these street-level reversals have resulted in large numbers of sex buyer arrests. During these operations, officers have also been known to use audio and video surveillance to record interactions between sex buyers and undercover officials as a form of evidence for court. For example, in 1993, the Lakewood Police Department conducted a street-level reverse sting operation in coordination with the Wheat Ridge Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, that resulted in the arrest of 38 male sex buyers on charges of soliciting prostitution. Interactions between undercover policewomen and suspected sex buyers were recorded and videotaped. In addition to street-level reverse stings, the department has recently began conducting web-based reverse stings in effort to combat the growing commercial sex market online. Once apprehended, sex buyers may have their names and other identifying information released to the media. For example, in 2009, the LPD conducted an web-based reverse sting operation that resulted in the arrest of 26 sex buyers and prostituted persons. According to reports, police posted decoy ads on and arrested individuals who had responded to the ad and met undercover officers at a predetermined location.

In 2015, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the Edgewater Police Department, the Lakewood Police Department, the Golden Police Department, and the Wheat Ridge Police Department participated the FBI’s annual child sex trafficking operation, Operation Cross Country IX, focused on apprehending sex buyers and sex traffickers in addition to identifying and rescuing child sex trafficking victims. As a result of the investigation, the Denver FBI Task Force and participating local agencies successfully identified and rescued 20 child sex trafficking victims and arrested seven sex traffickers.

In April 2016, a federal web-based reverse sting operation focused on targeting the demand for prostitution and sex trafficking during World Cannabis Week in Colorado, resulted in the recovery of five child sex trafficking victims, arrest of nine sex traffickers/pimps, and 26 prostitution-related arrests. The sex trafficking operations were conducted across the Denver Metro area and along the Front Range during the week of April 18 due to the influx of tourists that the state experiences during large-scale events which has also demonstrated an increase in demand for commercial sex during these events. According to research conducted by FBI personnel, before and after World Cannabis Week in 2015, researchers noted a 35 percent increase in the number of online escort postings, in addition to nearly 40 percent of escorts reportedly traveled to Colorado for the event. The Wheat Ridge Police Department was amongst the 20 participating local, state, and federal agencies.

Sex buyers and sex traffickers have also been arrested as a result of alternative investigations and/or through residential complaints to local law enforcement. For example, as a result of a joint operation of the FBI’s Innocence Lost Task Force, Lakewood Police Department, and the District Attorney’s Office in February of 2014, five men and one woman had been arrested as part of a child sex trafficking operation in Jefferson County. Offenders were arrested on the charge of commercial sexual exploitation of children. The investigation began in November 2012, when one of the victims reported to a counselor that she had been sexually assaulted by the alleged sex trafficking ringleader. A total of three female victims were identified in this operation, with victim ages ranging from 13 to 16 years old. All three victims had run away from home, truant from school, and lured into the sex trafficking net through drugs. Throughout the course of the investigation, a complex, multi-layer operation was uncovered in which methamphetamine was being administered to young girls being sex trafficked. Members of the ring, their associates, or strangers who allegedly, exchanged money and/or drugs with the ringleader or other members of the sex trafficking ring as a method of payment to sexually exploit young girls. The identities of arrested offenders were included in reports by local media outlets.

Employment Loss

Loss of employment is also a consequence of buying sex that occurs in the county. For example, in 2011, the operator of several strip clubs in the Denver metro area and high school tennis coach at Golden High School, was arrested in a prostitution sting on West Colfax Avenue. According to court documents, the sex buyer was cited for furthering the act of prostitution after allegedly approaching and engaging with an undercover Denver policewoman during a prostitution sting. In addition to owning several strip clubs, the sex buyer had been the tennis coach at Golden High School since 2009. After finding out about the arrest, Jeffco Public Schools fired the tennis coach and sent a letter to school parents informing them of the incident and the termination of the coach’s employment. The sex buyer’s identity and image were included in reports by local media outlets.

John School

In 2014, a john school program was launched in Lakewood by Better Communities Colorado LLC. The Colorado John School Program’s mission is to reduce the demand for commercial sex in the Denver Metropolitan area by educating offenders about the negative consequences of prostitution and increasing their awareness of health risks, prostitution laws and healthy relationships. It consists of an intake session and a one-day class, and classes are scheduled four times per year. The fee is $400.00 and it must be paid in full at the intake session. The intake session consists of an intake questionnaire and meeting with a counselor. The purpose of this is to identify risk factors that may contribute to the participant’s risky sexual behaviors and to provided needed community resources. The intake session must be completed before attending the class.

​The class is held on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. four times per year and is structured to educate participants on a variety of topics related to prostitution. Participants receive information on the many aspects of the system of prostitution and its negative consequences. Additionally, participants are educated about making positive changes in their intimate relationships and sexual practices. The intended result is an increased awareness and sensitivity to the overall impact that prostitution has on individuals, families, and the community at large. Classes are conducted in English and Spanish. Speakers of other languages must bring a translator to both the intake session and the class. The John School curriculum currently features six primary content areas:

  • Community impact
  • Reasons men buy sex and risks they face
  • Effects of prostitution on prostituted women
  • STD’s and safer sex
  • Legal consequences and dynamics of pimping and recruiting
  • Healthy relationships

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Employment Loss, Identity Disclosure:

John School:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Colorado
Type County
Population 582910
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