San Jose, CA

Tactics Used

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

San Jose is the county seat of Santa Clara County, which is located at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay area. It is the third-largest city in California,  with a population of approximately 940,000.  Sex trafficking and prostitution have been identified by law enforcement and residents as substantial problems in the city and surrounding areas of the county.  Cases of prostitute homicides and disappearances have been documented in the city.  Residents have complained to the police about a growing trend of street prostitutes and the sex buyers seeking their services. Others have suggested that the rise in street gang activity in San Jose, particularly in South San Jose, is one of the chief reasons for the rise in commercial sex.

Police have been conducting periodic reverse stings since 1986, mostly at street-level and more recently, using the web.  Neighborhood groups have also mobilized to combat prostitution and sex trafficking broadly, and the demand for commercial sex specifically.  For example, the Santa Maria Urban Ministry organized a march in 2012 to protest prostitution and sex trafficking in the city, and the Washington Guadalupe Neighborhood Association and local YMCA supports efforts to combat demand as a means of attacking local problems associated with commercial sex in downtown San Jose areas, particularly near South First Street.

In September, 2019, the SJPD launched the “Report John Program” designed to reduce human trafficking and prostitution by reducing consumer-level demand. A SJPD press release about the program states that community members are invited to participate by reporting “Johns” they suspect of soliciting “sex workers.” Reporting is facilitated by a simple website form used on phone, tablets, or desktop computers that crowdsource feedback from the community. Residents can upload a photo and provide vehicle and other identifying information on a potential John. The Department’s Human Trafficking Unit then evaluates the information and determines if further investigation is warranted. If appropriate, a Public Safety Announcement (PSA) letter is sent to the registered owner’s address, alerting the registered owner that his or her vehicle was seen in an area known for high levels of prostitution. This letter also serves to educate the registered owner about the dangers of prostitution and related illicit activities.

Key Partners

  • San Jose Police Department
  • Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office
  • Milpitas Police Department
  • FBI
  • Santa Maria Urban Ministry
  • Washington Guadalupe Neighborhood Association
  • YMCA

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:


Neighborhood Action:

Public Education and Letters Sent to Potential Sex Buyers:  Report John Program

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State California
Type City
Population 939899
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