New York, NY

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 York City is the largest city in the United States, with approximately 8.8 million residents. It is comprised of five boroughs, including Manhattan as the center of the metropolis. New York has a long history of prostitution and sex trafficking, and the wide range of crimes associated with commercial sex markets in the city include cases of serial killers specifically targeting individuals exploited in commercial sex, homicides of child sex trafficking victims, and the overdose deaths of sex buyers who were drugged to facilitate their robbery. The city was also among the first in the U.S. to focus on arresting men for attempting to buy sex. The first known reverse sting in the city occurred in 1972, and releasing the identities of arrestees began in 1979 with a high-profile campaign by then-Mayor Koch that involved disclosing the identities of arrested sex buyers via public access television. Convicted sex buyers have at times been required to perform community service and pay fines, since at least the early 1990s. Periodic reverse stings, some of them large-scale and covering multiple locations in the city, continue through the present, although for a city of its size, the number of arrests of sex buyers has been relatively small.

There were just 107 arrests of male sex buyers in Manhattan in 2011, compared to over 400 arrests in Nashville — a city with a population only one-third the size of Manhattan’s. In June 2013, a large-scale reverse sting and comments made by the New York City Chief of Police suggested a renewed interest in primary prevention. A smaller reverse sting in front of a strip club in mid-town Manhattan followed in August 2013, resulting in the arrest of 10 men, further attesting to the shift in strategy. In the June 2013 reversal, the NYPD arrested 156 sex buyers in a citywide operation dubbed, “Operation Losing Proposition.” The initiative took place between May 30 and June 1, 2013, during which law enforcement seized 32 vehicles in addition to making nine other arrests for various offenses. In a public statement following the sting, the Chief of Police stated:

“The department is focusing on the demand side of the equation. The exploitation of women is not a victimless crime.”

Since 2011, the “Operation Losing Proposition” initiative has resulted in more than 900 arrests of sex buyers and the seizure of over 200 vehicles. The city had a program that may be regarded as a “john school” in the early 1990s, but we have been unable to learn much about its educational content or to confirm in what time span the program operated. News archives make reference to sending arrested male sex buyers to “a three-hour class on the dangers of soliciting prostitutes” (New York Times, November 20, 1994). This may qualify as a john school program, if the content went beyond discussion of health risks. However, little information about the program is available, so the determination that this may have been an early john school program cannot be made at this time.

During the first year of the Covid pandemic, in 2020, 62% of the people arrested in prostitution cases were the buyers of sex, and just 24% were sexually exploited persons or “providers” of prostitution. Those numbers reflect a continuation of a strategy shift started by the NYPD in 2017, when greater efforts were made to prosecute the promoters of prostitution — many of them human traffickers — along with the customers who pay for sex. Overall prostitution arrests have “precipitously dropped” since 2014, according to statistics given to PIX11 News by the NYPD Office of Public Information. In 2020, just 96 prostituted persons were arrested compared to 1,790 in 2014. In the same time period, 246 “patrons of prostitution” were arrested.

In February 2021, the New York Governor signed a bill repealing the 1976 law prohibiting loitering for the purpose of prostitution. In April 2021, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office announced it would no longer prosecute prostitution and unlicensed massage and asked a judge to dismiss 914 cases involving those offenses, as well as 5,080 cases involving loitering for the purpose of prostitution. Many of these cases dated back to the 1970s and 1980s. The DA’s Office clarified that it would continue to prosecute cases of patronizing a person for prostitution, promoting prostitution, and sex trafficking.

IT-Based Tactics

IT-based tactics have been incorporated into the multi-site demand reduction operations coordinated by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. Since 2011, the Cook County (IL) Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) has been coordinating periodic reverse sting operations occurring simultaneously in multiple cities throughout the United States. The collaborative effort was initially called the “National Day of John Arrests,” and then in 2015 was renamed National Johns Suppression Initiative (NJSI). The coalition of agencies that participate in these coordinated enforcement efforts grew from eight to more than 100. The 19 NJSI operations from 2011 through 2021 have involved the collaboration of over 140 law enforcement agencies, and have collectively produced the arrests of more than 10,000 sex buyers. Since August 2018, some of the NJSI operations have incorporated the use of decoy internet ads that connected to an AI bot, created by The bot interacts with sex buyers to the point where it sends a deterrence message warning of the legal and social dangers of prostitution and sex trafficking.

Initially, the Cook County Sheriff’s Police and eight other agencies utilized the bot, including the principle police departments and sheriff’s offices in Boston, MA; Des Moines, WA; McHenry County, IL; New York, NY; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; Tarrant County, TX; and Upper Merion Township, PA. Across several subsequent NJSI operations, 18 cities and counties used the bots to combat demand.

The childsafe bot and other similar products can continuously scrape data or monitor “signal” from open source electronic communications, analyze the raw input, and flag messages as probably depicting a commercial sex offer or transaction. They also engage buyers in some form of interaction designed to deter individuals from attempting to purchase sex, at the present “point of purchase” moment as well as in the future. This approach seeks to disrupt (and ultimately collapse) commercial sex markets by reducing demand.

The NYPD Vice Squad has conducted operations leveraging information technology used to deter sex buyers. Undercover officers post decoy ads on websites advertising sex, and when a prospective sex buyer responds to the ad, police send out a “Targeted Communication Deterrence Message.” Between 2018 and May 2022, “the NYPD has sent just under 19,000 such messages,” the department noted.

Employment Loss

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex within the city. For example, in January 2015, a former NBA player and TV analyst was arrested on a charge of soliciting a prostituted person at a hotel in Washington, D.C. The report states that the man was arrested in an undercover sting operation targeting prostitution. He was suspended indefinitely by CBS and Turner Sports after he was arrested on charges of soliciting a prostituted person. A CBS spokeswoman said in a statement that the man “…will not be working again for CBS this season.” CBS Sports is based in NYC, so this employment decision is placed in the city for Demand Forum purposes, even though the arrest occurred in Washington, DC. Turner Sports (based in Atlanta) also suspended the sex buyer “indefinitely.” In September 2016, a New York City radio DJ quit after an Internet video appeared to show the man soliciting sex from a popular video-blogger. The 46-year-old deejay had been arrested multiple times for soliciting prostituted men and women, including once earlier that year, as well as in 2010 and 2011. In June 2017, an NYPD officer working undercover prostitution stings in Manhattan paid for sex acts with six women and his employment was later terminated.

For additional information on anti-demand efforts in the city’s boroughs, please see the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, and Brooklyn listings.

Key Partners

  • New York Police Department
  • New York Mayor’s Office
  • CBS Sports

Key Sources

Reverse Stings:

Identity Disclosure:

Auto Seizure:

Loss of Employment, Identity Disclosure:

IT-Based Demand Deterrence Messages:

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:

Declining to Prosecute Prostitution, Partial Decriminalization:

State New York
Type City
Population 8804190
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