Salt Lake City, UT

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

Salt Lake City, is the capitol and the most populous city of the state of Utah. It has a population of approximately 200,000. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of Salt Lake County. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are sex trafficking, related crimes of violence, and cases involving child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in state law).

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. Police have conducted reverse stings to address prostitution in the city since 1968, and more recently have conducted web-based reversals.  For example, in May 2018 a four day prostitution sting operation in the Salt Lake City area resulted in the arrest of “dozens” of men who tried to buy sex from undercover female officers who walked the streets.  During the operation, which took place throughout the Salt Lake Valley, officers searched hotel rooms and the streets for those involved with prostitution. The street-level operation focused on prostitution in different areas of the city, with officers making arrests near 550 South Main Street (near the Little and Grand America hotels), Main Street and Wood Ave, Cleveland Ave and Major Street, and the area of 200 North 1000 West. The identities of arrested sex buyers can be disclosed to news outlets by police and prosecutors.

In February, 2023 a web-based sting resulted in 12 arrests on charges including sexual solicitation of a child, enticing a minor, and criminal solicitation. Undercover agents posed as children on online dating and social media apps, or would pose as adults offering their children to predators for a fee. One man who allegedly arranged to sexually assault a 7-year-old girl acknowledged after he was arrested that he “did something really stupid” and it was the first time he had tried something like that. Another man, a long-haul truck driver from Taylorsville, was arrested after allegedly arranging for the paid sexual abuse of a 7-year-old boy and sending “child pornography” (child sexual abuse materials, or CSAM) to the undercover agent, charging documents stated.

In 1996 and 1997, a proposal was discussed to adopt an auto seizure ordinance for vehicles used in the commission of soliciting sex.  We are not sure whether that particular ordinance passed, but more recent reports of arrests of sex buyers have included mention of vehicles being seized.   For example, in July, 2019, an undercover prostitution operation in Salt Lake City led to the arrest of eight men, all booked on charges of patronizing a prostitute. Prostitution is a class A misdemeanor, and vehicles can be impounded.

Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred within the city. For example, in March, 2003, a Utah lawmaker resigned after it became public that he had been arrested for allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover police officer posing as a prostituted male. The State Representative had been  arrested in Salt Lake City for investigation of sex solicitation, a class B misdemeanor. He was issued a citation and released at the scene. After obtaining the police report, the Deseret News contacted the man on the House floor for his reaction to the charge. Shortly thereafter, the man gave the House Speaker a handwritten letter of resignation and left the building. He had recently been elected to a second term in the House, which he won in 2000.

In February, 2018, it was announced that a Utah State Representative had allegedly used taxpayer funds to pay for at least two hotel rooms used for prostitution during the prior year. The allegations stemmed from a report in the British newspaper the Daily Mail alleging that the Representative twice hired a prostituted woman in 2017, and  state officials were investigating whether taxpayer or campaign money was used for the hotel stays. The legislator resigned in February.

John School

In 2001 the city launched a john school program, and the program was used at least through 2014. It does not appear to still be operating. The John’s Offender Program was designed as an alternative to traditional prosecution for defendants charged with soliciting sex acts for hire. A guilty plea was held in abeyance, and upon successful completion of the program the case was dismissed.  Another term for this process is that the john school was a “diversion option” rather than a condition of a criminal sentence.  The program focus was deterring sex buying by assisting offenders to make better choices and to consider the consequences of their behavior.  Salt Lake County Criminal Justice Services contracted with a community-based provider (Umoja Training) that conducted 10 group sessions that include the following areas of discussion: health risks associated with prostitution, effect of prostitution on the lives of women and on the community, healthy relationships, communication, self esteem, make and female social roles, and a prostitute panel.

Weekly john school sessions were generally held each Thursday, on a rolling basis.  As men were referred to the program, they entered the 10-week cycle of sessions at any point in the cycle.  Each of the 10 sessions was about 1.5 to 2 hours in length, for a total of 15 to 20 hours.  Each class had about 10 to 15 participants, and occasionally reached 30.  Reportedly, over 800 men participated in the program.  Close to 100% of the men that begin the 10-week program completed it successfully.  The fee of $350 supported the program, and when enrollments were high surplus revenue was generated and was channeled to programs for commercial sex and trafficking survivors.  The provider of the john school (Umoja Training, for most of the program’s existence) held a contract awarded through a competitive bid process.

In January, 2022, proposed state legislation was proposed that would extend the “john school” concept statewide.  It passed unanimously in the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee. The “Johns School” was descried as a class for people convicted of soliciting for prostitution that could give them a break on criminal fines. At the time of legislative hearings, it was unknown how long the class would be or how much the accused would have to spend to take the course. The curriculum would reportedly delve into “the negative effects on an individual involved with prostitution or human trafficking.”

Key Partners

  • Salt Lake City Police Department
  • Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office
  • Utah Valley Special Victims Unit
  • U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • FBI
  • Umoja Training

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey and Interviews

John School:

Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Sex Buyer Employment Loss:

Proposed Vehicle Seizure:

Vehicle Seizures:

Neighborhood Action and Letters:


Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution, Related Violence, Related CSAM in the Area:

State Utah
Type City
Population 200478
Comments are closed.