Las Vegas, NV

Tactics Used

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

Las Vegas is the largest city in Nevada, with approximately 585,000 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. While prostitution is legal in Nevadan counties with populations of 400,000 or less, it remains illegal in the two counties containing the state’s largest cities and the majority of its population–  Clark and Washoe Counties (containing Las Vegas and Reno, respectively).

Numerous problems are associated with the local commercial sex market, such as HIV-positive persons continuing to sell sex after diagnosis, kidnapping and assault of sex sellers, and johns being assaulted and robbed. At the darkest end of the scale, sex sellers have been specifically targeted by murderers in Las Vegas.  There have also been local cases of prostitution-related child endangerment, and of pimps being murdered.

To address the issue, city police have elaborated an aggressive and comprehensive strategy to arrest and educate sex buyers, with dozens of street-level reverse stings and web stings conducted by the Las Vegas Police Department each year. For example, in December, 2020, Las Vegas metropolitan police and FBI officials arrested 11 men during an operation targeting “online predators” seeking to purchase sex with children (one of whom was a Clark County School District assistant principal).

Street-level operations typically employ one or more female officers, who pose as decoys. Similarly, to identify johns soliciting sex in print and on the web, the LVPD may post decoy advertisements in local papers and on the internet. As johns attempt to purchase sex from undercover officers, they are apprehended by police. Once arrested, the men may be subject to SOAP (or Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution) orders, barring them from entering neighborhoods in the city 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 reoffending by operating one of the largest john schools in the nation. Launched in 1997, the First Offender Prostitution Program requires that enrollees have no prior offenses and were arrested within city limits. If accepted, a john 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 johns 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. 

In September 2020 an operation conducted by the Child Exploitation Task Force led to the arrest of two men on charges of soliciting a minor. According to reports, both men responded to fake advertisements set up by law enforcement offering access to a 15-year-old prostitute. Upon arriving to the specified location agreed upon by the offenders and undercover officers, the men were arrested. The names and ages of the individuals involved in the sting were released in addition to specific information pertaining to the case. 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.

In January, 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 18. The investigation began with a traffic stop on the night of Dec. 24 when a police officer saw a pickup truck near Charleston and Nellis Boulevards with a suspended registration. The passenger was a minor and police said they believed she was involved in prostitution. The investigation revealed the two 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.

Key Sources



State Nevada
Type City
Population 583746
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