Roanoke, VA

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

Roanoke is a city in the state of Virginia with a population of approximately 100,000.  Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the city, surrounding communities, and in other areas of the county. This activity, and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Some of the crimes associated with the local commercial sex market seen in Roanoke are child sex trafficking, assault, rape, kidnapping, drug and weapons offenses, and multiple homicides. For example, in 2013, an undercover officer posing as a sex buyer was robbed by a prostituting woman and a pimp or conspirator who used a baseball bat as a weapon.

Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. For example, in March 2018, a man pleaded guilty to trying to entice a 15-year-old girl to engage in prostitution. In a press release, The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia said that the man admitted to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. The investigation involved a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy posing as a teen responding to a Craigslist advertisement seeking a “personal/casual” encounter. In a text message exchange, the offender described the escort service and standard rates, and the two arranged for the man to travel from his Salem home to engage in a sex act with the child. After he was arrested, he also admitted that at least two previous “recruits” were under 18 years of age.

Some local arrests of sex buyers are the result of allegations of crimes against real victims, rather than the product of reverse stings using undercover police decoys.  For example, in July 2022, a Roanoke woman was sentenced to eight years in prison for conspiring to force a 15-year-old girl to have sex with a man at a motel, where he ran a prostitution ring. The offender had previously been a victim of similar crimes as a child. According to testimony in Roanoke’s federal court, on multiple occasions her mother had trafficked her to drug dealers, to feed her addiction. Twenty years later, the woman invited a friend — a runaway from a foster home — to a motel in Roanoke County, where drug-addicted women were encouraged to stay and “work as prostitutes” so they could earn money to support their heroin and cocaine habits. In 2013, Roanoke City Police arrested a man and a woman who were using a computer at the city’s main library to contact clients in a prostitution scheme. In 2007, at least one prostituting woman was charged with knowingly engaging in commercial sex after being diagnosed as HIV-positive.

Prostitution-related homicides have also occurred in the city.  For example, in 1988 a prostituted woman was beaten to death by a male sex buyer in a dispute that began when the man asked for his money back. In 1984, a man killed a prostituted woman in Roanoke, had sex with her corpse, and discarded the body under a bridge.

The city has engaged in a wide range of activities to combat consumer-level demand for commercial sex in an attempt to reduce prostitution, sex trafficking, and ancillary crimes. These efforts include both street-level and web-based reverse stings, auto seizure, SOAP orders, public education, and neighborhood action. In 1995, more than a dozen sex buyers convicted of first-time solicitation were ordered to pay $500 in fines and court costs, nearly twice the amount levied against prostituted women arrested in the city. On a least one occasion, Roanoke police have used surveillance cameras to gather evidence during reverse sting operations.

Key Partners

  • Roanoke Police Department
  • Franklin County Sheriff’s Office

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:


  • “In Prostitution Prosecution, This Tape Didn’t Stick; Motel Defendant Pleads Not Guilty,” Roanoke Times, May 14 1997.
  • “Judge Throws out Video; Decision Leaves Officials ‘Frustrated’ in Battle against Prostitution,” Roanoke Times, April 7 1998.

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 Virginia
Type City
Population 99122
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