San Francisco, CA

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

San Francisco (officially, the City and County of San Francisco) is the leading population and cultural center of Northern California and the Bay Area, with a population of over 815,000.  Prostitution and sex trafficking in the city are well documented, long-standing problems locally, and been linked to cases of serial killers targeting individuals selling sex, numerous additional murders, and assaults on sex buyers as well as prostituted and trafficked persons. For example, in 1983, a man was convicted of seven murders of prostituted women in San Francisco and the Bay Area, and was suspected in other unsolved homicides. Other homicides and assaults include a series of cases in 1995, in which two prostituted people were murdered, and two others were critically injured. One of the women who survived was in a coma for seven weeks after the assault that resulted in the fracturing of her skull, jaw, and two eye sockets, in addition to the shattering of her teeth. The other survivor was a 15-year-old girl who was raped and then repeatedly stabbed in the eyes to prevent identification of her assailants, then shot in the back of the head. In addition, there has been at least one homicide of a sex trafficker/pimp, by the parents of a girl he had sex trafficked in Compton and San Francisco.

Reverse Stings and John Schools:

The city of San Francisco is one of the pioneers in addressing the demand for commercial sex. The first known reverse sting operation in the city occurred in 1975, and by the late 1980s the San Francisco Police Department was routinely arresting hundreds of sex buyers each year. In 1995, the city launched the First Offender Prostitution Program (FOPP), a type of program that later became known by the generic term, “john school.” The FOPP is widely regarded as the first john school, although it was not (e.g., programs were active in Grand Rapids, MI and St. Paul, MN in the 1980s). However, it did serve as the model or starting point for most of the 70+ programs that followed in the U.S. (plus over a dozen in Canada, approximately 20 in the United Kingdom, and  the nationwide program operating in over 30 sites throughout the Republic of Korea). The FOPP’s managing partner was the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, which led a partnership with the SFPD and a non-profit organization (SAGE), that was formalized by a memorandum of understanding. The FOPP also had key collaborators that contributed to the program for years, including a neighborhood organization, Save our Streets (SOS), and the San Francisco Department of Public Health. In addition, key classroom contributions were made by survivors of commercial sex, most of whom were current or former clients of the SAGE program. The FOPP was the subject of an evaluation sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, which found the FOPP to be effective in reducing recidivism. The report from that evaluation, along with resources from the FOPP, are provided below.

From 1995 to 2014, the non-profit Standing Against Global Exploitation, or SAGE, led the FOPP, but the program was discontinued and SAGE was disbanded by the fall of 2014. In 2015, Community Works West (CWW) began developing a john school to replace the previous program operated in the city for 20 years by SAGE. In 2018, the CWW website contains a description of a second generation john school in San Francisco, described as follows:

The First Offender Prostitution Program (the “John’s School”) is a court diversion program that seeks to reduce recidivism among first time buyers of prostitution. Eligible “johns” participate in an eight-hour Saturday school (similar to traffic school) focused on building knowledge regarding the consequences, both personal and societal, of buying sexual services. Community Works is piloting a new men-helping men approach, in which the RSVP  Team has adapted the manalive curriculum to the First Offender Prostitution Program.  This was the first John’s School in the nation and has been replicated in more than 50 jurisdictions nationwide. Contact: Alan Wilson (

A news report in July 2019 about the second generation john school in San Francisco noted that local police are supplying the program with a robust stream of arrested sex buyers.

Key Partners

  • San Francisco District Attorney’s Office
  • San Francisco Police Department
  • Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE) (1995-2014)
  • Community Works West (2015)
  • San Francisco Department of Public Health
  • Save Our Streets (SOS)
  • Survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey, Interviews

FOPP Program Documentation

FOPP Program Evaluation 

News Reports on FOPP John School:

Community Works West John School:

Reverse Stings:

Neighborhood Action:

Sex Buyer Arrests:

Auto Seizure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation Cases in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State California
Type City
Population 805201
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