Schenectady County, NY

Tactics Used

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

Schenectady County is located about 20 miles northwest of Albany in upstate New York.  Its population is about 155,000, and its county seat is the city of Schenectady (with about 66,000 of the county’s residents). Street prostitution has been reported in Schenectady for over forty years, and in the early 1980s police had identified the city and surrounding areas as a “stop” on a major domestic sex trafficking network (referred to then as a “pimp circuit”) that included cities in central Pennsylvania and upstate New York.  Prostitution rings are known to still exist in the city through 2019.  Among the associated problems have been cases of child endangerment, including a 2007 case in which a prostituted woman was arrested for child endangerment for snorting cocaine from her infant’s stomach between tricks. Other smaller towns within Schenectady County have had similar problems; for example, in February, 2019, a Rotterdam man was arrested and charged with possessing child pornography (three felony counts of possession of a sexual performance by a child).  The investigation began through an online tip, and Rotterdam police were assisted by the FBI Child Exploitation Task Force and the New York State Police Computer Crimes Unit.

To combat these and other crimes, the Schenectady Police Department has conducted reverse stings since 1978. The first operation utilized two undercover female officers, who posed as decoys, and 19 sex buyers were arrested and spent a weekend in jail. Through the 1980s and early 1990s, SPD officers furthered efforts by conducting frequent, large-scale john stings. Operations are still conducted on a routine basis, and have at times employed the use of surveillance cameras. Since 1980, the Schenectady Daily Gazette has publicized the names of all arrestees.  More recently, multiple online news sources have included the sex buyer identities in their coverage.

Police have collaborated with neighborhood associations and encourage residents to report suspected prostitution activity. As a result, anti-demand initiatives have been largely well-received, and at times spurred by resident requests to hold sex buyers accountable for their actions. As early as September 1978, a Gazette reporter, unaware of the SPD’s plans to conduct its first reverse sting, spoke to several community members who urged police to arrest prostitute customers in addition to prostituted women. In October 1993, mothers in the area offered to personally distribute  warning pamphlets on behalf of police to johns seen loitering in their neighborhood.

Key Partners

  • Schenectady County Sheriff’s Department
  • Schenectady Police Department
  • New York State Police
  • FBI


Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:


Neighborhood Action:


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 New York
Type County
Population 155565
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