Panama City, FL

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

Panama City is located in the Florida Panhandle along U.S. Route 98, about midway between Tallahassee and Pensacola, It is the county seat of Bay County and has a population of roughly 36,000 residents. The Panama City Police Department has fielded numerous complaints about prostitution from residents and businesses for decades, and sex trafficking is well-documented in the area.

To address these problems, police have conducted street-level reverse stings and released to the media the identities of arrested sex buyers since at least 2001. For example, a local restaurant owner pleaded no contest in 2001 to a charge of “soliciting or procuring a prostitute.” After the Panama City man’s plea to the misdemeanor charge, adjudication on the case was withheld. Less than three months later, he paid a fine of $297. The man’s identity was eventually publicly released.

A four-day reverse sting in 2004 resulted in the arrest of 72 men. More recently, the city has also conducted web-based reverse stings. Identity disclosure and loss of employment are also consequences of buying sex that have occurred within the city. For example, in April 2018, a man used Facebook to make contact with someone he thought was a prostituted woman but was instead an undercover Panama City police officer. During the communications, he agreed to pay $200 for sex and described what he wanted, then agreed to meet in person. He was arrested and charged with solicitation of prostitution. The man was identified as the band director at a local school and was fired after his arrest. North Bay Haven Charter Academy officials confirmed that the sex buyer no longer worked for the school after he went to meet the undercover officer for prostitution during school hours. He had worked at the school for eight years before his arrest.

In March 2021, Panama City Police arrested 18 people over two weekends in an operation targeting people attempting to solicit for prostitution and crimes involving narcotics. Police reported that several suspects contacted an investigator who was undercover and tried to give the investigator money or drugs for sexual acts. The identities of those arrested were disclosed in news reports.

In August 2022, several local agencies and the FBI took part in a large-scale prostitution operation in the Panhandle that resulted in the arrest of at least 17 people. Panama City Police said in a news release they participated in the operation on August 4 and August 5. They added that Panama City Beach Police and the Bay County Sheriff’s Office were part of the enforcement action. Not many details were released about the operation, but Panama City Police released the names and charges of those arrested, including 7 male sex buyers. Charges included possession of drugs and paraphernalia, procuring for prostitution, traveling to meet a minor for sexual activities, use of a computer to solicit a minor, and deriving support from proceeds of prostitution.

Key Partners

  • Panama City Police Department
  • Panama City Beach Police
  • Bay County Sheriff’s Office
  • FBI
  • North Bay Haven Charter Academy
  • Haven Schools District

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

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:

State Florida
Type City
Population 35952
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