New Haven, CT

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

New Haven is the second largest city in Connecticut, with a population of roughly 135,000. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified as substantial problems in the city for decades. Among the more serious problems associated with the local commercial sex market are child sex trafficking and the targeted homicide of prostituted women. For example, in the late 1970s seven African-American women were found murdered, four of whom had local arrest records for prostitution. Sex buyers and prostituted women have also been assaulted during commercial sex transactions. In 2013, several children who were trafficked for sexual exploitation were rescued in the area during a nationwide prostitution and sex trafficking sting.

In their attempts to address prostitution and the collateral crimes that drive complaints from residents and businesses, the New Haven Police Department has conducted operations targeting consumer-level demand. The first reverse sting to occur in the city was conducted in 1974, and the identities of the men arrested are routinely disclosed to the media. The NHPD has also conducted reverse stings in the city’s suburbs. For example, in 2008, the NHPD initiated a series of reverse sting operations for the first time in the neighborhood of Fair Haven, targeting male sex buyer in areas historically known for prostitution. According to reports, the NHPD arrested 22 male sex buyers within the first four weeks of the operation. During these operations, video cameras were used to record evidence of the sex buyer’s interactions and subsequent arrests by undercover female officers. The identities and images of arrested sex buyers were released to local media outlets.

Neighborhood Action: 1992 “John of the Week” Campaign

In 1992, a neighborhood negatively affected by street prostitution mobilized to put pressure on sex buyers as a deterrent. Residents obtained information about arrested sex buyers from police. They also conducted amateur surveillance on vehicles, recording license plate numbers and obtaining names and addresses of registered owners from the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles. They would use this information to mail letters to the vehicle owners, saying they had seen the car being used by someone soliciting prostitution. They also placed posters on telephone poles and trees, each naming the area’s new “John of the Week.” The posters stated the name and address of a man arrested for soliciting a prostituted woman in their neighborhood and warned, “Johns! Stay out of our neighborhood or your name will be here next week.” There were other people in the community who objected to the posters, and routinely ripped them down soon after they went up. Association members would replace them the next day.

Of the first five male sex buyers named on posters, two planned to sue, saying their lives had been ruined. Police said they saw a decline in the level of prostitution activity in the area, but were not “in full agreement with the tactic of John of the Week.” A local civil rights lawyer representing the men who had planned to sue the Edgewood Neighborhood Association said that the phone number of the first “John of the Week” was listed on the posters, leading to the man’s wife and children receiving “dozens” of harassing phone calls. In both cases, the community was putting up posters before the men were arraigned. Based on sex buyer objections, the group stopped including the men’s phone numbers on the posters.

Residents argued that such measures were necessary, as they feared for their children’s safety and for the safety of women living in the neighborhood who frequently had men pulling up to solicit them for sex. Members of the association said they had exhausted other options, such as unsuccessfully asking the New Haven Register (a local newspaper) to print the names of men caught soliciting prostitution, before they finally opted to start “outing” sex buyers with the posters. In defense of their “John of the Week” campaign, one of the activists involved said,

“I think it’s a horrible situation to have a husband and father arrested for soliciting a prostitute and having his name publicized. It is a tragedy. It’s also tragic for little schoolgirls to have to wait for the school bus next to hookers. It’s a tragedy to find used condoms in the sandbox and in the grass where the kids play outside. These are I.V.-drug users, and the highest risk category for AIDS.”

The community group, which represented about 300 families living in the Edgewood Avenue area of New Haven, retained their own lawyer. The attorney threatened a countersuit if the sex buyers filed a suit against the campaign, contending that the campaign was simply re-conveying public information, having obtained names from court dockets of men arrested for soliciting prostitution.

Key Sources

National Assessment Interviews and Survey

Reverse Stings:

Neighborhood Action, “John of the Week” Campaign:

Sex Buyer Fired and/or Resigned Due to Arrest:

Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:

Homicide of Prostituted Women:

Prostitution-Related Assaults:

State Connecticut
Type City
Population 135081
Comments are closed.