Lancaster, PA

Tactics Used

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

Lancaster is a city of approximately 60,000 residents, located in southeast Pennsylvania. It is the county seat and largest city in Lancaster County. Prostitution has posed persistent and visible problems in the area, and has generated numerous complaints to police. The community has also documented cases of sex trafficking of minors, and targeted homicides of women selling sex.

To reduce demand for commercial sex, the Lancaster Police Department incorporated the use of street-level reverse stings in 1993.  They are now conducted on a routine basis. Operations involve the use of an undercover female officer as a decoy. When johns solicit sex from the officer, they are promptly arrested. Police often release arrestees’ names, ages, photos, and other identifying information to the local media.

In June 2015, for example, a female undercover LPD officer posed as a decoy “in a neighborhood where residents reported prostitution and illegal behavior,” apprehending nine johns in the process. All of the arrestees’ names ran in press. Similar operations in July and October of 2018 produced the arrest of 10 and 9 sex buyers, respectively, in reverse stings conducted in various sections of Lancaster City. The encounters occurred in neighborhoods that are regularly frequented by actual street level prostitutes that often occur in residential neighborhoods. Authorities say prostitution is an ongoing problem in Lancaster City neighborhoods, and is directly linked to drug and alcohol addiction affecting both prostitutes and customers.


Key Partners

  • Lancaster Police Department
  • Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office

Key Sources

State Pennsylvania
Type City
Population 54672
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