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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.
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.”
- 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)
- Umoja Training
National Assessment Survey and Interviews
- Umoja Training’s John’s Offender Program: Program Overview
- Umoja Training’s John’s Offender Program: Curricula Outline
- Umoja Training’s John’s Offender Program: Course Requirements
- Salt Lake City Prosecutor’s Office’s Summary of Programs Offered through the SLCPO
- “Class Targets Sex for Hire”, Salt Lake Tribune, October 29 2000.
- “Lawmaker to Resign Over Sex Solicitation”, Salt Lake Tribune, May 29 2004.
- “Evaluating the Usefulness of a Prostitution Diversion Project”, Stephanie Wahab, Qualitative Social Work 5.1 (March 2006): 67-92.
- “Ex-SLC Employee Pleads to Lesser Charges in Sex Solicitation Case”, Salt Lake Tribune, April 23 2010.
- https://kutv.com/soliciting-for-prostitution-in-utah-could-send-you-to-johns-school (2022)
- “City to Switch Tactics on West 2nd South”, Deseret News, December 27 1969.
- “Police Add 6 to List in Crackdown”, Deseret News, June 9 1971.
- “2 Found Guilty on Morals Charge”, Deseret News, July 17 1971.
- “Decoy Plan Pays Off”, Deseret News, September 21 1971.
- “Decoys Profitable in Prostitution Fight”, Reading Eagle, January 7 1974.
- “Women and Rights Units Assail Prostitute Decoys”, New York Times, June 17 1976.
- “Congress, Sex Scandals and the Press”, St. Petersburg Times, June 23 1976.
- “‘Busts’ in the Middle of a Boom”, Montreal Gazette, October 2 1976.
- “The New ‘Sting’ of Law Enforcement”, Boston Globe, January 23 1977.
- “HELP WANTED: Special Officer (Female)”, Deseret News, March 3 1979.
- “Joking Remark Wasn’t So Smart”, Lewiston Morning Tribune, July 13 1979.
- “S.L. Man Charged in Decoy Assault”, Deseret News, August 13 1983.
- “Former Policeman Sues Salt Lake City”, Bryan Times, November 11 1986.
- “Mayor Charged with Soliciting”, Lewiston Journal, May 1 1987.
- “Supremacist Arrested on Sex Charge”, Moscow-Pullman Daily News, March 18 1988.
- “Police Say Decoys Making Real Dent in S.L. Prostitution”, Deseret News, August 22 1988.
- “Prostitution Is a Legal Issue, Not a Moral One for Vice Squad”, Deseret News, June 9 1989.
- “Police Decoys Find Job Is Scary, But Fun”, Deseret News, June 9 1989.
- “Action Against Wendover Principal Studied”, Deseret News, November 22 1992.
- “For the Record,”, Salt Lake Tribune, July 31 1993.
- “7 Arrested in Sting on Valentine’s”, Deseret News, February 17 1995.
- “For the Record”, Salt Lake Tribune, May 11 1995.
- “For the Record”, Salt Lake Tribune, August 13 1995.
- “For the Record”, Salt Lake Tribune, August 17 1995.
- “S.L. Finally Winning War Against Prostitution, Prosecutors Say”, Deseret News, July 1 1998.
- “For the Record”, Salt Lake Tribune, February 25 2003.
- “Cited in Prostitution Sting, City Lawmaker Resigns”, Salt Lake Tribune, March 1 2003.
- “For the Record”, Salt Lake Tribune, June 21 2003.
- “For the Record”, Salt Lake Tribune, November 13 2003.
- “Bird Drops Bid Over Soliciting”, Deseret Tribune, May 28 2004.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 20 Arrests”, Salt Lake Tribune, November 14 2008.
- “SLC Police Bust 32 in Prostitution Sting”, Salt Lake Tribune, February 3 2009.
- “Sex Sting Nets More than 60 Arrests”, Salt Lake Tribune, April 21 2009.
- “Salt Lake City Police Arrest a Portland Man During Sting”, Oregonian, September 10 2009.
- “Rolly: Special Treatment for Special Ed Teacher”, Salt Lake Tribune, September 3 2010.
- “Former School President Admits to Patronizing a Prostitute”, Salt Lake Tribune, December 23 2010.
- “Salt Lake Police Net 16 Arrests in Prostitution Sting”, Deseret News, February 8 2011.
- “SLC Prostitution Sting Nets Drug Suspect”, ABC/KTVX-TV 4, March 28 2011.
- “Salt Lake City Has New Plan for Investigating Prostitution, Gambling”, Salt Lake City Tribune, January 8 2013.
- “SLCPD Arrests Six in Prostitution Sting”, FOX/KSTU-TV 13, April 5 2013.
- “SLCPD’s Organized Crime Unit Has a New Focus”, FOX/KSTU-TV 13, April 5 2013.
- https://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2018/06/02/ksl-fxn-police-arrest-nearly-50-people-during-salt-lake-city-prostitution-sting (2018)
- http://kutv.com/prostitution-bust-nets-more-than-40-arrests (2018)
- http://fox13now.com/fox-13-rides-along-as-prostitution-sting-nets-nearly-50-arrests-in-salt-lake-city/ (2018)
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- “Internet ‘Sting’ Techniques OK”, Deseret News, April 28 1998.
- “Online Prostitution Arrests Spiking in Utah”, SALT TV, April 3 2012.
- https://www.ksl.com/12-arrested-in-online-predator-sting-during-all-star-weekend-in-salt-lake-city (2023)
- https://www.fox13now.com/operation-leads-to-arrests-of-those-soliciting-minors-online-during-all-star-weekend (2023)
- https://gephardtdaily.com/operation-technical-foul-leads-to-arrest-of-12-suspects-in-child-solicitation-sting/ (2023)
- https://www.deseret.com/12-arrested-online-predator-sting-all-star-weekend (2023)
Sex Buyer Employment Loss:
- https://www.deseret.com/legislator-is-arrested-resigns-seat (2003)
- https://www.cbsnews.com/jon-stanard-utah-lawmaker-hotel-paid-by-public-records-show-prostitute-report (2018)
Proposed Vehicle Seizure:
- “Salt Lake City Targeting Johns; Impoundment of Cars One Tactic in War on Street Prostitution”, Rocky Mountain News, November 10 1996.
- “Punish Prostitutes’ Customers”, Deseret News, January 17 1997.
- “Legislature Considers Flurry of Sex Bills”, Deseret News, February 10 1997.
- “Bill Targeting Prostitution Needs Repair; Committee: It Punishes Family Members of ‘Johns'”, Salt Lake Tribune, February 19 1997.
- “Morning Briefing”, Salt Lake Tribune, February 19 1997.
Neighborhood Action and Letters:
- “40 Join Hands to ‘Take Back’ a S.L. Area”, Deseret News, April 24 1993.
- “Salt Lake ‘Johns’ Will Get a ‘Dear Wife’ Letter; Prostitutes’ ‘Johns’ Will Get Letter at Home”, Salt Lake Tribune, July 22 1995.
- “Citizens Watch Over Sentencings; Citizens Group Monitors Sentences”, Salt Lake Tribune, April 29 1996.
- “Mom Takes the Time to Fight Crime”, Deseret News, September 28 2000.
- “Neighborhood Takes Stand Against Prostitution”, Salt Lake Tribune, April 25 2001.
- “Customers of ‘Mistress’ House Beware: Police Know Who Many of the ‘Johns’ Are; Arrest of Owner Pleases Neighbors”, Deseret News, October 11 1995.
- Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Listings
- “Matter of Choice”, Salt Lake Tribune, August 2 1998.
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “S.J. Man, Salt Lake City Brother Jailed in Teen-Age Prostitution Case”, San Jose Mercury News, December 6 1985.
- “Young Prostitutes Being Imported to Work…”, Salt Lake Tribune, June 29 1993.
- “Girl, 17, Shot Dead in S.L. Crack House”, Salt Lake Tribune, March 30 1994.
- “Police Seek Suspect in Pimp Case”, Deseret News, December 12 1996.
- “New Programs to Combat Prostitution”, Deseret News, April 14 1997.
- “Arrest of 2 Men Linked to Probe of Prostitution”, Deseret News, July 5 1997.
- “S.L. Police Detectives Targeting Underage Prostitutes, Pimps”, Deseret News, April 8 1998.
- “Salt Lake City Assessment: Identification of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Victims and Their Access to Services”, Report, Shared Hope International, August 2008.
- “Man Pleads Guilty in Sex Trafficking Case”, ABC/KTVX-TV 4, June 2 2009.
- “Woman Claims She Was Forced into Prostitution in Utah”, Deseret News, April 2 2010.
- “Utah Officials Make Arrests in Alleged Human Trafficking Ring”, Utah Public Radio, November 30 2012.
- “Businesses Shut Down Following Sex-Trafficking Raid”, CBS/KUTV 2, December 5 2012.
- “SLC Massage Parlor Owner Faces Prostitution Charges”, Ogden Standard-Examiner, April 5 2013.
- ‘They really are slaves,’ experts say of human trafficking victims”, January 12, 2014
- https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/sex-trafficking-in-southern-utah/ (2019)
- https://kjzz.com/human-trafficking-survivor-works-to-change-utahs-sentencing-minimums (2020)
- https://www.justice.gov/project-safe-childhood-comprehensive-strategy-combatting-child-sexual-exploitation (2020)
- https://www.ksl.com/bountiful-man-accused-of-exploiting-prostitution-dealing-drugs (2021)
- https://kutv.com/suspected-utah-human-trafficker-had-double-digit-victims-from-across-the-state (2021)
- https://www.abc4.com/human-trafficking-in-utah-what-does-it-look-like/ (2022)
Background on Prostitution, Related Violence, Related CSAM in the Area:
- “Arrest Focuses Attention on Morals Problem”, Deseret News, June 10 1964.
- “S.L Spurs Fight on Prostitution, Official Reports”, Deseret News, June 11 1964.
- “City’s Vice Ordinance: ‘Soliciting’ Is the Word”, Deseret News, September 12 1967.
- “Prostitution Sex Business Thrives on Streets, A Step Ahead of Law””, Salt Lake Tribune, November 7 1993.
- “New Efforts to Curb Prostitution”, Deseret News, April 18 1997.
- “S.L. Trying to Send Young Hookers Home, Pimps to Jail”, Salt Lake Tribune, September 1 1997.
- “Pimps Aren’t Root of Battle”, Deseret News, September 22 1997.
- https://www.cityweekly.net/utah/hooker-high (2001)
- “Police Gear Up for Seedy Side of Games”, Deseret News, January 28 2002.
- “For the Record”, Salt Lake Tribune, February 20 2003.
- “New Approaches to an Old Profession”, Deseret News, June 15 2003.
- “Suspect in ’86 Slaying? S.L. Police May Be Close to an Arrest in Teen’s Stabbing Death”, Deseret News, October 2 2005.
- “Police Arrest 20 in Escort Sting”, Deseret News, January 22 2006.
- “Web Site Used to Further Prostitution, Police Say”, Deseret News, March 9 2007.
- “Man Charged with Being a Pimp”, Salt Lake Tribune, December 15 2009.
- “4 from Michigan Arrested in Salt Lake Prostitution Bust”, Deseret News, July 28 2011.
- “Two Charged with Exploiting Prostitution in Sting”, Deseret News, September 13 2011.
- “Four Accused of Forced Prostitution”, Salt Lake Tribune, November 16 2011.
- “Utah Police Unit Wants Better Grip on Prostitution”, ABC/KTVX-TV 4, January 10 2013.
- “In Our Opinion: Fighting Vice Can Make a Serious Dent in Problem”, Deseret News, January 14 2013.
- “Prostitution in Salt Lake City: Arrests Have Dropped”, Salt Lake Tribune, March 24 2013.
- https://www.stgeorgeutah.com/ksl-fxn-police-arrest-nearly-50-people-during-salt-lake-city-prostitution-sting (2018)
- https://www.good4utah.com/undercover-prostitution-bust-nabs-utah-catholic-priest (2018)
- https://www.idahostatejournal.com/catholic-priest-charged-with-patronizing-a-prostitute (2018)
- https://www.facebook.com/human-trafficking-bust-utah-man-would-use-social-media-to-sell-pornography/ (2020)
- https://www.ksl.com/3-charged-in-prostitution-sting-at-utah-massage-parlors (2021)
- https://www.ksl.com/man-charged-with-using-inside-police-info-to-aid-prostitution-ring (2022)
- https://www.fox13now.com/crime-ridden-salt-lake-city-motel-goes-up-for-sale (2022)
- https://www.ksl.com/kearns-man-who-sexually-assaulted-2-at-gunpoint-charged-in-attack-of-3rd-woman (2022)
- https://www.abc4.com/human-trafficking-in-utah-what-does-it-look-like/ (2022)
- https://ksltv.com/agents-report-finding-child-porn-bag-of-childrens-underwear-in-utah-mans-home/ (2023)
- https://www.abc4.com/utahn-arrested-for-allegedly-accepting-stolen-car-from-prostitute/ (2023)