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Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia and government seat of Henrico County, VA. The city has a population of approximately 230,000 residents. It is surrounded by Henrico and Chesterfield counties. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified as substantial local problems by law enforcement in the city, and residents have complained to police about prostitution in multiple neighborhoods. For example, in March, 2012, a minister was arrested in a local prostitution sting with his two-year-old child with him during the solicitation. The man was one of 34 people arrested by Richmond Police over a six-day operation. The woman the suspect thought was offering prostitution turned out to be an undercover officer. The man faced solicitation and felony child endangerment charges. During this sting, the department covered the entire city. Every precinct was involved. For example neighbors had been complaining about prostitution activity in the Chamberlayne Avenue corridor. Then, undercover officers headed across the river to areas like Hull Street and Jeff Davis Highway. They also hit other hot spots like Midlothian Turnpike. Police link local prostitution to drug use, larcenies and other crimes.
In 2015, new laws took effect in Virginia that feature more severe consequences for those who profit from prostitution and sex trafficking (sex buyers and sex traffickers), and implemented rehabilitation services for prostituted people and/or victims of sex trafficking. The legislation was effective July 1, 2015, and increases exposure to penitentiary time, dramatically increasing prison time in cases where a juvenile is involved, incorporates the use of multi-jurisdictional grand juries, and adds as a crime the mere recruitment of females into the sex trade.
Since 1990, police have conducted reverse stings resulting in hundreds of arrests of sex buyers. Some of the men are required to adhere to SOAP orders, restricting their presence in areas of the city known for prostitution. Neighborhoods have mobilized against prostitution, including efforts to deter sex buyers. Residents with small children in one neighborhood were finding condoms and syringes in their backyards. To combat prostitution in one area, the West Grace Street Association was formed to patrol the area on foot in the late hours of weekends to deter cruising sex buyers. The North Side Neighborhood Team has pursued similar tactics in order to make sex buyers “uncomfortable” in their neighborhood.
A 1994 city ordinance allowed police to ticket motorists (presumed sex buyers) who passed the same point more than two times in the same direction within a restricted area; fines may reach up to $100. To make the ordinance correspond with state law, the Richmond City Council added a provision that motorists cannot pass the point more than two times in the same direction in a three-hour period, between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. The area must be clearly marked with signs, and the areas to be marked were determined by the city council or the chief of police.
In addition to the anti-cruising ordinance, Richmond installed 12 surveillance cameras as part of an Electronic Neighborhood Watch program to deter all criminal activity and to provide police with investigative information. With funding contributed by the Fan District Association, the city installed six still cameras called FlashCams. When motion is detected (up to 100 feet away), the FlashCam flashes and takes pictures, and it also has the capability to issue a loud digital-voice warning. Another use of cameras was informal: a member of the West Grace Street Association used the flash from a camera to try to deter sex buyers as they drove by.
The city also has a “john school” program, designed to educate arrested sex buyers about the harm to them, their families, and their communities caused by prostitution. The john school description and contact information provided by Commonwealth Catholic Charities is as follows:
Our John School teaches the harm caused by prostitution. You will learn about the impact of prostitution on you, on your family, and in your community. You will explore your personal motivations for paying for sex and develop a prevention plan. The class is facilitated with the help of professionals from the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Henrico Health Department, and The Gray Haven.
Classes are $300 and meet 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. If you are court ordered to attend, your progress is reported to your probation officer. Before enrolling, you need to participate in an assessment with a counselor. Assessments are $60 and scheduled by appointment only.
For appointment and questions call 804.545.5907
Loss of employment is also a consequence of buying sex in the city. For example, in 2013 a former Huguenot High School teacher was one of 26 individuals arrested for solicitation of prostitution and various drug charges, during a web-based reverse sting operation conducted by the Chesterfield County Police, the Henrico County Police Division, the FBI, and ICE. As a result of the former teacher’s arrest, the school immediately placed the sex buyer on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. In addition, a Chesterfield Police Lieutenant reported that officials made calls to the Richmond International Airport and the Defense Logistics Agency regarding employees based out of their groups who were also arrested.
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Prostitute Decoys Arrest 100 Men”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 20 1990.
- “Police Arrest 100 Men”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 21 1990.
- “Phony Ads Lead to Prostitution Arrests”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 17 1993.
- “Style Weekly Reviewing Police on Escort Service Ads”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 21 1993.
- “City to List Men Charged in Prostitute Solicitation”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 11 1993.
- “Va. Union Police Chief Suspended after Arrest”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 3 1995.
- “VUU Police Chief Fined, Sentenced”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 26 1995.
- “Men Arrested in Sting Get Tough Sentences; They Get 30 Days, and $500 Fines Each”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 22 1997.
- “29 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 1 1997.
- “‘Cupid’ Stings 17 Men; Posing as Prostitutes, Officers Make Arrests”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 19 1998.
- “Acquitted Man Wins His Battle; A Year after Being Absolved, He Gets Conviction Wiped Out”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 2 1998.
- “Prostitution Stings Bring 31 Arrests in Richmond”, NBC/WWBT-TV 12, August 23 2009.
- “Richmond Prostitution Raid Nets 28 Arrests”, NBC/WSLS-TV 10, December 29 2009.
- “Richmond Police Prostitution Stings Bring 31 Arrests”, NBC/WWBT-TV 12, April 20 2010.
- “PHOTOS: Richmond Prostitution Sting Arrests”, CBS/WTVR-TV 6, March 15 2012.
- “Minister Among 34 Busted in Richmond Prostitution Stings”, CBS/WTVR-TV 6, March 15 2012.
- “Prostitution Concerns Prompt Henrico, RPD Joint Sweep”, CBS/WTVR-TV 6, August 31 2012.
- “Richmond, Henrico Police Operation Nets Prostitution, Drug Arrests”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 1 2012.
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- “Colonial Heights Man Pleads Guilty in Underage Prostitution Case”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 18 2013.
- https://vpm.org/police-agencies-arrest-36-people-during-sex-solicitation-sting (2022)
- “Virginia May Modernize Laws Against Prostitution”, Newport News Daily Press, January 7 1999.
- “Richmond, Va., Officials Consider Prostitution-Free Zones”, FOX News, September 11 2006.
- “Zones Would Bar Prostitutes; Richmond Officials Want to Make It Illegal for Prostitutes and Their Customers to Enter Three Areas”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 11 2006.
- “Richmond Targets Prostitution Zones”, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, September 12 2006.
- “Tactic Targets Prostitution; City Police Initiative Aims at ‘Demand Side'”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 4 1998.
- “Postcards from City Police Rile Residents”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 25 1999.
“JohnTV” and Identity Disclosure Website:
- “City Mulls Penalty for Illegal Sex Deals; Officials Weigh Plan to Broadcast Convictions in Prostitution Cases”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 28 2004.
- “Prostitute Patrons Show Not Ready for Prime Time”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 26 2005.
- https://www.issuelab.org/resources/1191/1191.pdf (2008)
Sex Buyer Fired and/or Resigned Due to Arrest:
- https://www.nbc12.com/26-arrested-in-undercover-prostitution-operation-on-midlothian-turnpike (2013)
- https://amp.sj-r.com/amp (2013)
- https://www.wtvr.com/chesterfield-prostitution-sting-nets-26-arrests (2013)
- https://www.wtvr.com/police-prostitution-sting-nabs-richmond-high-school-teacher (2013)
- “City Could Study Broad Street Parking Restrictions”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 16 2012.
- “Opinion: Richmond – Park Place”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 20 2012.
- “Broad Street Boon?”, Richmond Magazine, August 22 2012.
- “West Broad Street Parking Signs Coming Down”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 22 2012.
Neighborhood Action, Cameras, and Auto Seizure:
- “City Officials Hear South Siders Tell How to Stem Drug, Sex Trade”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 24 1995.
- “29 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 1 1997.
- “City Fights Prostitution, Holding Car for Evidence”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 26 1997.
- “Hey, Mr. Mayor”, Richmond Magazine, November 2004.
- “On the Prowl: Neighbors Fight Back Against Prostitution on Their Streets”, Richmond Magazine, December 2004.
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Prostitution Arrests Made”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 9 1987.
- “Woman Charged with Prostituting Daughter, 12”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 18 1992.
- “Woman Gets 10 Years for Conspiracy to Transport Girl to Henrico for Prostitution”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 28 2012.
- “Pimp Sentenced to 14 Years in Henrico Case”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 11 2012.
- “Man Faces Lengthy Prison Term in Richmond Sex Trafficking Case”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 2 2012.
- “Md. Girl, 15, Testifies in Federal Prostitution Case in Richmond”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 9 2012.
- “N.C. Woman Sentenced in Prostitution Conspiracy”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 18 2013.
- “Sentencing in Richmond Today in Juvenile Sex Trafficking Case”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 13 2013.
- “Tenn. Man Sentenced to 20 Years for Transporting Girl for Prostitution”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 16 2013.
- “Henrico Gets Conviction in Fight against Prostitution”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 20 2014.
- https://www.greensboro.com/news/jamestown-man-first-to-be-charged-under-new-va-prostitution (2015)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “AIDS Hasn’t Slowed Street Sex in Richmond”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 18 1987.
- “Escort Service Operators and Three Others Arrested”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 8 1987.
- “Two More Women Here Face Prostitution Charges”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 10 1987.
- “2 Arrested in Probe of Prostitution”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 13 1987.
- “Dating Service Owner Convicted in Prostitution Case”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 10 1987.
- “Downtown Vice Is Targeted”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 22 1988.
- “Prostitution Ordinance Struck Down”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 7 1992.
- “Police Use of Ads Stirs Controversy; Woman Who Answered One in Magazine Was Arrested”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 31 1994.
- “Police Place Personal Ads in Line of Duty”, Roanoke Times, April 1 1994.
- “Officer Charged with Soliciting”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 15 1995.
- “Ex-Officer to Appeal Conviction”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 6 1995.
- “City Policeman Accused of Aiding Prostitution”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 9 1996.
- “Officer Is Charged in Solicitation Case”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 30 1997.
- “Police Set New Sex-Case Policy; Prostitutes Who Seek to Pass along Diseases to Face Felony Charges”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 20 2004.
- “Prostitution Ringleader Set for Sentencing”, ABC/WJLA-TV 7, May 10 2013.
- “Residents Call for Prostitution Crackdown along Jeff Davis Highway”, ABC/WRIC-TV 8, July 17 2014.
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Charge Certified in Motel Slaying”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 21 1987.
- “Tempting Fate; City ‘Street Queen’ Walks in the Shadow of Death”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 26 1995.
- “Women Tells Jury of Rape, Robbery; Defense Attacks Her Credibility”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 31 2001.
- “Man Charged in Deaths of Four People; Last Year Police Believe the Case Involves the Rivalry of Local Prostitution Rings”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 27 2004.
- “Hispanic Sex Rings Found in Area; Discovery a Byproduct of Probe into Deaths in Richmond, Henrico”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 22 2004.