New Haven is the second largest city in Connecticut, with a population of roughly 130,000. Prostitution has been identified as a substantial problem 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 which had local arrest records for prostitution. Johns 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 human trafficking sting. prostituted persons as well as johns have been assaulted during commercial sex transactions in the city.
In their attempts to address illegal commercial sex 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.
Neighborhood Action: 1992 “John of the Week” Campaign
In 1992, a neighborhood negatively affected by street prostitution mobilized to put pressure on johns as a deterrent. Residents obtained information about arrested johns 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 have seen the car being used by someone soliciting a prostitute. 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 are 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 men 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 the johns’ objections, the group had 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 have 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 prostitutes, before they finally opted to start “outing” johns 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 johns 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.
- New Haven Police Department
- Edgewood Neighborhood Association
- National Assessment interviews and survey:
- Reverse stings:
- http://www.newhavenindependent.org/archives/2008/08/accused_johns_p.php (2008)
- http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2010/09/15// (2010)
- Background on prostitution and sex trafficking in New Haven and surrounding area:
- https://www.nhregister.com/news/article/No-prison-for-pair-in-prostitution-ring (2004)
- http://articles.courant.com/hc-sex-trafficking 1_pimps-innocence-lost-national-initiative-fbi (2013)
- https://patch.com/connecticut/hartford/hartford-man-found-guilty-sex-trafficking-minors (2018)
- https://www.nhregister.com/news/article/Police-Blotter-Prostitution-weapons-charges (2019)
- Neighborhood Action, “John of the Week” Campaign:
- Homicide of Prostituted Women:
- Prostitution-related assaults: