Las Vegas, NV

Tactics Used

Buyer Arrests
Reverse stings
Shaming
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Letters
Cameras
Web stings
License suspension

Las Vegas is the largest city in Nevada, located in Clark County, with approximately 635,000 residents. Dubbed “the Entertainment Capital of the World,” it has also been identified by federal and local law enforcement as one of the nation’s largest hubs of prostitution and sex trafficking. Prostitution in the state of Nevada is legal in counties with populations under 700,000 residents and is illegal in counties with populations over 700,000 residents. In the State’s larger cities such as Carson City, Reno, and Las Vegas, prostitution is prohibited. Legal prostitution occurring within counties consisting of populations less than 700,000 residents, is strictly limited to licensed and regulated brothels. All other forms of prostitution remain illegal in the state of Nevada. Individuals seeking to purchase commercial sex outside of licensed and regulated brothels can be arrested and sanctioned. For more information about the Prostitution and Solicitation laws in Nevada click HERE.

To address the issue, local police have elaborated an aggressive and comprehensive strategy to arrest and educate sex buyers. In interviews with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) for the National Assessment in 2012, officials reported having conducted dozens of street-level reverse stings and web stings annually, in addition to a few operations in Henderson, NV. For example, in 2014, the LVMPD participated in National Johns Suppression Initiative, an 18-day operation initiated by the Cook County Sheriff’s Department in Illinois that highlight the demand side of prostitution by targeting sex buyers and sex traffickers across the nation. The operation resulted in the arrest of 19 male sex buyers, three sex traffickers, and two individuals for prostitution-related thefts. In addition, eight minor and adult victims of sex trafficking were rescued. The LVPD has continued conduct reverse stings to reduce the demand for commercial sex in order to ultimately eliminate prostitution and sex trafficking in the city. Officials believe that the demand for commercial sex plays a large role in the minor and adult sex trafficking that occurs within the area. For example, in 2020, the LVMPD identified 128 adult victims of sex trafficking, and 123 child sex trafficking victims (under the age of 18). In addition to street-level reverse stings, officers have also conducted web-based stings. In these operations, officers post decoy prostitution ads online and when sex buyers attempt to purchase sex from undercover officers, they are apprehended by police. In 2020, the LVPD arrested three male sex buyers in an online sting targeting individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. According to officers, an undercover officer posted advertisements on known prostitution websites whereupon three male sex buyers contacted the undercover officer to exchange money for sex. The officer said he informed each of the potential sex buyers that the person they were seeking to sexually exploit was 15 years old. Three men met undercover officers at a predetermined location whereupon their arrival were arrested on charges of suspicion of soliciting a child for the purposes of prostitution and luring a child to engage in a sex act. This operation was conducted to address the high prevalence of child sexual exploitation in Las Vegas, a problem noticed by law enforcement and citizens alike. The offenders’ identities, photos, ages, locations, and charges were included in reports from local news sources. In April of 2021, an undercover vice operation conducted by the Southern Nevada Human Trafficking Task Force and the LVMP, resulted in five prostitution related arrests. The operation focused on targeting the demand for prostitution and commercial sex in the city. The arrested offenders were charged with pandering and/or loitering for prostitution and obstructing a public official. They were booked in the Clark County Detention Center. The identities and charges of arrested offenders were included in official press reports from the LVMPD.

Additional demand reduction tactics in the county are SOAP (or Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution) orders vehicle towing, and john schools. SOAP (or Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution) orders ban sex buyers from entering neighborhoods in the county known for commercial sex sales. They may also have their vehicle towed, although state legislation prevents law enforcement from formally seizing it. Additionally, the LVPD has made a concerted effort to prevent arrestees from re-offending by operating one of the largest john schools in the nation. Launched in 1997, the First Offender Prostitution Program requires that participants have no prior offenses and were arrested within city limits. If accepted, a sex buyer must pay a $450 enrollment fee. The eight-hour course, which is offered in both English and Spanish and includes presentations from law enforcement, health clinicians, and former prostituted women, offers men the opportunity to have their solicitation charges reduced to a misdemeanor if they complete the course and avoid rearrest. Between 1997 and 2006, a total of 1,628 sex buyer completed the course– only 3 individuals subsequently were rearrested for soliciting.

Nevada is among many states that have recently passed new human trafficking legislation or altered existing laws in attempts to strengthen them. In June, 2013, the Nevada Legislature passed AB67, which updates and strengthens laws against sex trafficking. Included in the law are enhancements to punishments for procuring minors for commercial sex. However, Nevada continues to have a relatively low conviction rate of child sex traffickers in comparison to the overall number of minors that are arrested for prostitution in the state. Out of the 920 minors arrested for prostitution by Las Vegas police from 2011 to 2019, only 152 of cases resulted in a plea agreement or conviction of the sex trafficker at trial. Although federal law declares all individuals under the age of 18 to be victims of child sex trafficking, minors in Nevada can still face prostitution and solicitation charges. To abide by federal law, at least 10 states have passed laws prohibiting children from being arrested for solicitation or prostitution however, Nevada has yet to be one of them. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, state of Nevada arrested more minors for prostitution offenses than any other state in 2019; out of the 290 minors were arrested for prostitution in the United States, 110 arrests occurred in Nevada. Officials in Las Vegas argue that by arresting minors engaging in prostitution, officers are providing vulnerable youth with the chance to escape their sex trafficker/pimp, receive medical attention, connect with an advocate or victim-centered resources, and arrive at the conclusion that they are being sexually exploited and abused.

Buyer Arrests:

Not all sex buyer arrests are the result of proactive sting operations but are instead the product of investigations or enforcement actions against individual offenders. For example, in January of 2021, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department arrested a 38-year-old man on several charges, including kidnapping of a minor and sex trafficking of a child under the age of 18 years old. The investigation began with a traffic stop on the night of Dec. 24 when a police officer saw a pickup truck with a suspended registration. The passenger was a minor and police suspected that she was a victim of sex trafficking. The investigation revealed the offender and the young girl met on Instagram and over the course of conversation allegedly entered into a prostitution arrangement. The police report said the man admitted to meeting the minor over the social media app but said he thought she was at least 21 years old.

In another case in May of 2021, a man was accused of paying an underage girl for sex while awaiting trial in a case where he’s accused of sex trafficking another girl. He was arrested and charged May 18th, 2021, on four counts of luring a child with a computer for a sex act, four counts of statutory sex seduction by a person over 21, and four counts of soliciting a child for the purpose of prostitution. According to an arrest report from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the investigation began after a 15-year-old girl’s father reported to police that a man had paid his daughter to engage in sexual acts multiple times. Investigators reviewed text messages and CashApp transactions between the two that indicated that between February and March of 2021, the offender would transport the girl using a Lyft to his apartment and pay her through CashApp after she left. While reviewing the offender’s record, officers found that he had been arrested previously on charges of kidnapping a minor, sex trafficking of a child, facilitating sex trafficking, and child abuse in a previous case where he had contacted an underage girl through Instagram. The offender was released on $50,000 bail in the previous case at the time of his arrest in 2021 for similar offenses.

Loss of Employment:

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the county. For example, in June of 2019, a 48-year-old Las Vegas fire department captain was sentenced to five years’ probation for sexually exploiting a teenage girl in exchange for $300 inside a fire station. The former captain also was ordered to register as a sex offender after pleading an equivalent of no contest in to attempted statutory sexual seduction and soliciting prostitution. His identity, photo, age, location, and charges were included in reports from local news sources. The offender had been a firefighter for almost 20 years and resigned after his arrest. Police and prosecutors say the offender contacted the girl in February of 2017 through an online advertisement that said she was 22 years old, although she was 15 years old at the time. The victim told police they had sex in a fire station room labeled “captain’s dorm.”

Public Education

Additional methods for reducing the demand for commercial sex and sex trafficking have been implemented through public education and increasing awareness by local non-profits and advocacy organizations. For example, The Nevada Coalition To Prevent The Commercial Sexual Exploitation Of Children created a prevention guide inclusive of strategies and resources to educate communities, churches, parents and youth, and decrease demand for the sexual exploitation of children. The CSEC Prevention Guide can be used by organizations or individuals across the state of Nevada. The prevention guide emphasizes the importance of attacking the demand for commercial sex and prostitution to eradicate commercial sex and sex trafficking within communities, “Sex trafficking is a criminal industry based on the market principles of supply and demand.16 Traffickers exist because sex trafficking is highly lucrative. Demand is fueled, in part, by a culture of tolerance coupled with the glamorization of sex work in the media. The CSEC Prevention Guide provides a public health approach to combating child sex trafficking, with strategies and resources to reduce demand and increase CSEC awareness in the general community and with at-risk populations.”

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey and Interviews (2012)

John School:

Reverse Stings:

Arrest and Shaming of Sex Buyers:

Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:

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:

Child Endangerment:

Public Education:

State Nevada
Type City
Population 634773
Location
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