Kirkland, WA

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

Kirkland is a city of approximately 92,000 residents in King County, WA. It is considered a suburb of Seattle and is located on the east side of Lake Washington. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented problems in the city. These activities and their ancillary crimes have generated 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.

Among the tactics used to combat sexual exploitation are those targeting consumer level demand for prostitution and sex trafficking. In an effort to identify and apprehend local sex buyers, the Kirkland Police Department (KPD) conducted an operation in July 2013 at a Motel 6, that resulted in the arrest of four male sex buyers. Their ages and hometowns were released to the media but their names were not. In addition, the KPD has also participated in the FBI’s annual child sex trafficking initiative, Operation Cross Country. For example, in 2013, the KPD participated in Operation Cross Country VII (OCC7) in which the City of Kirkland was a site for both street-level and web-based reverse sting operations. The Innocence Lost National initiative is focused on identifying child sex trafficking victims and apprehending sex buyers and traffickers.

Sex buyers and sex traffickers have also been apprehended through investigations of alleged offenses against real victims or as the result of residential reports to local law enforcement. For example, in June 2020, a Kirkland man was found guilty of sex trafficking multiple women online for almost a decade. The sex trafficking organization operated over the course of almost ten years, between 2010 to 2020. Charging documents state that the defendant ran a sex trafficking enterprise where he brought women in under the guise of other jobs and then sex trafficked them through, a website known for hosting prostitution and sex trafficking ads. He targeted women who were in desperate need of employment, struggled with substance abuse, or lacked self-esteem, and/or sought the attention of older men, based on interviews with the survivors. The defendant recruited women through manipulation, and in at least one instance, violence. He referred to these women online as “escorts” and charged $400 to be $500 an hour. Police found over $21,000, multiple electronic devices, bank statements and cocaine in a search of his apartment. In 2020, a judge sentenced the sex trafficker to just over six years in prison, along with no contact with the victims for at least 10 years and mandatory attendance of a “stop sexual exploitation” program through Seattle Against Slavery. He was charged with attempted leading of organized crime, promoting prostitution in the first and second degree, and domestic violence allegations.

John School Programs

Additionally, there have been at least four known john school programs offered in Kirkland, through either the King County Sheriff’s Office or the King County Prosecutor’s Office. The first known john school in the county operated from 2006 to 2007, whereby sex buyers could avoid significant criminal charges if they paid a substantial enrollment fee, attended educational classes, and avoided re-arrest. The course, which included lectures from health professionals and formerly prostituted women, also addressed the growing presence of trafficking networks in the region. By discussing the long-term impacts of sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation on victims and their families, the program hoped to educate sex buyers about the potential consequences of purchasing commercial sex. The program was a one-day classroom experience modeled after the San Francisco First Offender Prostitution Program (FOPP). Although the program was not renewed beyond its pilot period, in 2015, a similar john school was launched in Seattle. In 2019, the program was transferred from the Organization for Prostitution Survivors (OPS) to the Lantern Project, and modified. Its description may be found here.

Buyer Beware Program

In 2014, the King County Prosecutor’s Office launched a new initiative designed to reduce the demand for prostitution, change the attitudes and behaviors of men arrested for patronization, and eliminate cultural acceptance of the purchase of sex. The Buyer Beware initiative is a partnership with eight police departments and city attorneys’ offices across King County that are shifting their emphasis to pursue sex buyers. The initiative is led by the Organization for Prostitution Survivors and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Participating community organizations include Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST), Stolen Youth, and Seattle Against Slavery. Participating law enforcement agencies include the King County Sheriff’s Office and the police departments of Seattle, Des Moines, Kent, Federal Way, Bellevue, and Renton.

Buyer Beware brings together local prosecuting authorities, community service organizations, and survivors to implement a comprehensive strategy to reduce demand for commercial sex and facilitate exit from prostitution. The Buyer Beware program model emphasizes prosecuting sex buyers and connecting prostituted people to services. The original goal in 2014 was to reduce demand for commercial sex by 20% in two years.

The key elements of the program are:

  • Referring sex buyers to “Stopping Sexual Exploitation,” a comprehensive intervention program.
  • Collecting fines from arrested sex buyers to fund services for prostituted people.
  • Reducing arrests and prosecutions of prostituted persons in favor of referral to services.
  • Expanding effective services to assist prostituted people in leaving prostitution.
  • Forming an alliance of public and private employers committed to implementing policies and practices against sex buying.
  • Educating high school and college students on the harms of commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Conducting social media campaigns to educate young men on the harms of sex buying.
  • Changing cultural norms surrounding the purchase of sex by involving a variety of community sectors, such as public health, education, business, media, and criminal justice.

The program planned to launch an online public education tool where advertisements “pop up” when sex buyers input certain terms into search engines. Although the mechanism for deploying these advertisements was not disclosed, when implemented the advertisements would “link to information about prostitution-related penalties and services for men who need help to stop buying sex.”

Key Sources

Street-Level and Web-based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure:

John School:

Sex Trafficking in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Washington
Type City
Population 92107
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