Sanford is a city in central Florida, near Orlando with a population of approximately 50,000. Residents complain about prostitution in the city, and there have been cases of sex trafficking locally. In one case, a prostituted women was killed in 2007 and investigators pursued connections with the Daytona Beach serial killer who targeted prostituted women. In response to such concerns, police have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex, conducting reverse stings since 1985 resulting in nearly 1,000 arrests. A recent example was a reverse sting conducted in September 2013 that resulted in the arrest of seven sex buyers. The men are sometimes ordered to stay away from specified areas of the city known for prostitution, and can have their identities revealed to the public. In 2012, Demand Forum received an inquiry from the Sanford Police Department about the feasibility of a john school being established in the city.
Dear John Letters
In October, 2013 the Sanford Police Department announced it would begin sending letters to the registered owners of vehicles observed lingering in areas where known for street prostitution, with the goal of deterring prostitution “by stripping away the anonymity of the exchange.” According to a police department news release, letters will only be generated when “an officer is sure the driver is not lost but, in fact, circling the block looking for a prostitute.” Additionally, the SPD will begin “utilizing license plate cameras to track and photograph vehicles that frequent areas of the city where prostitutes gather.” Once documented, police will mail a letter to the suspected john that includes a photo of the car, a description of the car and its license plate number, and the time when and location where it was seen. The news release stated:
“Starting this week, the registered owners of vehicles spotted lingering in areas with known prostitutes, will receive a Community Safety Letter from the Sanford Police Department. The letter will serve as a warning that someone is watching them and that prostitution is unacceptable in the community. Letters will only be generated when an officer is sure the driver is not lost but, in fact, circling the block looking for a prostitute. The goal of this program is to act as a deterrent and reduce the demand for prostitution, by stripping away the anonymity of the exchange. “Cracking down on prostitution is an important step towards ensuring the safety and well-being of our community,” said Chief Smith.
The “Dear John” letter will read as follows:
“The Sanford Community, in conjunction with the Sanford Police Department, is committed to improving the safety and security of the communities and streets within the City of Sanford. Numerous residents and business people have expressed their concerns regarding street prostitution in their neighborhoods. This community safety letter is our way of informing you of the important initiative underway within this neighborhood and to seek your support. There is a clear correlation between street prostitution and drug use, including crack cocaine, as well as a variety of health concerns including H.I.V and Hepatitis. Community members, including their children, are frequently finding used needles and condoms in playgrounds and public areas. The increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic has a direct effect on the quality of life for the community and we need your help to improve this community. In order to maximize the efforts of community leaders in securing safe streets for their children, the Sanford Police Department kindly asks that you help the members of these communities. You can do your part by refraining from bringing your vehicle into this area unnecessarily. The Sanford Police Department applauds the efforts of this neighborhood in attempting to make it a safe community for its families and children. On their behalf, we welcome your support for this important community safety initiative.”
- Sanford Police Department
- Reverse Stings and Shaming:
- “Lucky Dozen Fulfill a Fantasy”, Orlando Sentinel, August 22 1993.
- “Sanford Police Arrest Men for Allegedly Soliciting Prostitutes”, NBC/WESH-TV 2, March 4 2005.
- “14 Arrested in Sanford Prostitution Sting”, Orlando Sentinel, September 27 2013.
- “Operation Targeting Prostitutes and an Undercover Prostitution Sting Lead to Fourteen Arrests”, Press Release, Sanford Police Department, September 27 2013.
- “Several Busted in Prostitution Sting”, NBC/WFGA-TV 12, July 18 2014.
- SOAP Orders:
- “Dear John” Letters and Cameras:
- “Dear John: Think Twice Before Picking Up That Prostitute in Sanford”, Orlando Sentinel, October 15 2013.
- “Dear John Letter Used to Curb Prostitution in Sanford”, ABC/WFTV-TV 9, October 15 2013.
- “Sanford Police Look to Curb Prostitution with a ‘Dear John’ Letter”, Press Release, Sanford Police Department, October 15 2013.
- “Florida Police to Monitor Cars Driving Near Prostitution Areas”, Russia Today, October 16 2013.
- “Florida Police Use License Plate Cameras to Curtail Prostitution”, Digital Trends, October 16 2013.
- “Sanford Police Department Seeks to Curb Prostitution with a ‘Dear John’ Letter”, Sanford Herald, October 16 2013.
- 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: