Salt Lake City, UT

Tactics Used

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

Salt Lake City, is the capitol and the most populous city of the state of Utah. It has a population of approximately 200,000. 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 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 than 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 was 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.  The John’s Offender Program is designed as an alternative to traditional prosecution for defendants charged with soliciting sex acts for hire. A guilty plea is held in abeyance, and upon successful completion of the program the case is dismissed.  Another term for this process is that the john school is set up as a diversion option, rather than a condition of a criminal sentence.  The program focus is deterring sex buying by assisting offenders to make better choices and to consider the consequences of their behavior.  Salt Lake County Criminal Justice Services contracts with a community-based provider (Umoja Training) that conducts 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 are generally held each Thursday, on a rolling basis.  As men are referred to the program, they enter the 10-week cycle of sessions at any point in the cycle.  Each of the 10 sessions is about 1.5 to 2 hours in length, for a total of 15 to 20 hours.  Each class has about 10 to 15 participants, and will occasionally reach 30.  Reportedly, over 800 men have participated in the program.  Close to 100% of the men that begin the 10 week program complete it successfully.  The fee of $350 supports the program, and when enrollments are high surplus revenue can be channeled to programs for survivors.  The provider of the john school (Umoja Training, for most of the program’s existence) holds a contract awarded through a competitive bid process.  For more information about the john school, contact: Peggy Hauff 799-8456; Shirley Jenkins 799-8471.



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 Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest or Allegations:

Proposed Vehicle Seizure:

Vehicle Seizures:

Neighborhood Action and Letters:



Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Utah
Type City
Population 194000
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