Portsmouth, NH

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

Portsmouth is a city of approximately 21,000 residents on the Atlantic coast of New Hampshire.  Most prostitution and sex trafficking activity in the city appears to be centered in hotels and other indoor venues, and is arranged through online solicitation. Community complaints play a role in police responding to prostitution in the city, and efforts to address demand are among the main approaches used by Portsmouth police and their collaborators.  For example, responding to tips and complaints about suspected prostitution occurring in a local hotel, the Portsmouth Police Department conducted a web-based reverse sting in 2006.  Police posted a decoy online ad and set up a reverse sting team in a hotel room, including an undercover woman police woman posing as a prostituted person.  A 2011 web-based reverse sting resulted in the arrest of three men, including a retired police officer; the names and ages of them arrestees were released by police and reported in local news outlets.  Arrested sex buyers can face fines totaling up to $1,200.  Police surveyed for the National Assessment in 2012 said reverse stings and the public disclosure of identities began in Portsmouth in 2006, and the department averaged about two operations per year at that time.

Not all arrests of sex buyers result from reverse stings using police decoys, but instead are the product of investigations of allegations against offenders with real victims. For example, an affidavit submitted in August 2012 by a Portsmouth Police detective was the result of a 10-month investigation looking into an alleged prostitution ring in Portsmouth, at a business and an apartment owned by a licensed clinical psychologist. Allegedly, in October, 2011, a cab driver told police she befriended a customer, a clinical psychologist with an office in Exeter who occasionally practiced out of his apartment. She also told police while visiting the man at his apartment that she witnessed the man use cocaine and let prostituted women hang out at his apartment.  Approximately nine months later, a woman arrived at the Salvation Army and said she was involved in prostitution. The woman admitted to police she had met an acquaintance who took her to an apartment in Portsmouth and that the psychologist had then posted ads online for prostitution.  Later the same month, police received a call from apartment management personnel who stated they had seen a young “scantily clad” woman leaving the psychologist’s apartment with an older man. Management also reported residents were complaining about women and men coming in and out of the building at various times during the day and they believed prostitution was taking place within the building. Police conducted surveillance, and spoke to another cab driver who said during rides the psychologist often talked about being involved in running prostitution and offered “to get a girl” for him if he wanted. The cabbie also stated he had picked up different women several times and then dropped them off at different locations. Although these women said they were going to visit friends, they would call the suspect upon arrival, according to the cab driver. A man identified during surveillance agreed to be interviewed by detectives, and admitted to going to the apartment for the purposes of paid sexual activity. He also said he obtained the number for the female in the apartment from an advertisement for an “erotic massage” on Backpage.com As a result of their investigation, police arrested all three suspects — the male sex buyer, the prostituted woman, and the male pimp/brothel owner. The sex buyer was charged with one count of prostitution and was released on personal recognizance bail, and was arraigned in Portsmouth Circuit Court. All were identified in news reports.

Key Partners

  • Portsmouth Police Department
  • Amesbury Police Department

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey and Interviews

Reverse Stings:

Arrest of Sex Buyer, Identity Disclosure:

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 New Hampshire
Type City
Population 21418
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