Rochester, NY

Tactics Used

Buyer Arrests
Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

Rochester is a city of approximately 212,000 residents, located east of Buffalo in Monroe County, New York. The city has experienced chronic and well-documented problems related to prostitution and sex trafficking for many decades.  A recent example includes case in which a Rochester man pled guilty to sex trafficking by coercion, admitting using the victim’s addiction to heroin to coerce her to engage in commercial sex acts with men in the Rochester area. The man was a registered sex offender who committed this offense while on probation in Monroe County.  This particular investigation commenced in January 2019 after Rochester Police Department officers responded to a residence in the City of Rochester for the report of a fatal overdose involving a minor victim. The owner of the apartment found the minor deceased on his living room floor and called 911. He told officers he brought the minor victim back to his residence to engage in commercial sex acts with her.  The investigation determined the man was sex trafficking the minor victim until shortly before her death. The prosecution was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.  In addition to sex trafficking, the local commercial sex market has also attracted at least two serial killers who specifically targeted women selling sex in Rochester.

To address such serious crimes, the Rochester Police Department has adopted several tactics that target underlying demand for commercial sex. The RPD began arresting johns in reverse stings in 1988, if not before.  That same year, the city established a “john school” type of program, making it among the first cities in the country to do so and preceding San Francisco‘s First Offender Prostitution Program (FOPP) by seven years. While Rochester’s program preceded the FOPP, it appears to have been short lived while the latter operated for 20 years and went on to be replicated or adapted in over 100 cities on three continents.

Community residents have also mobilized to identify and deter sex buyers. The Lyell Avenue Area 230 Group, for example, has coordinated with police to arrest male sex buyers on occasion. In several instances, residents reportedly complained to police and provided tips about prostitution activity occurring in the area. In addition, the group operates a “Dear John” website that is updated periodically with pictures of individuals arrested for attempting purchase sex in Rochester.


Key Partners

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey and Interview

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Neighborhood Action:


Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State New York
Type City
Population 206759
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