Schenectady, NY

Tactics Used

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

Schenectady is a city of approximately 66,000 residents, located 20 miles northwest of Albany in Schenectady County, New York. Street prostitution has been reported in the city for over forty years. Additionally, in the early 1980s, police had identified the city as a “stop” on a major domestic sex trafficking network (referred to then as a “pimp circuit”) linking central cities in Pennsylvania and upstate New York.  Prostitution rings are known to still exist in the city through 2013.  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.

To combat the issue, the Schenectady Police Department conducted its first street-level reverse sting on October 19, 1978. The operation utilized two undercover female officers, who posed as decoys. Nineteen johns were arrested as a result; all were forced to spend 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 residents’ requests to hold johns 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 prostitutes’ customers” in addition to prostituted women. In October 1993, mothers in the city’s Vale area took things a step further and offered to personally distribute warning pamphlets on behalf of police to johns seen loitering in their neighborhood.

Schenectady residents and law enforcement have also toyed with the idea of “Dear John” letters, auto seizure, and mandatory community service requirements for convicted sex buyers, but none of these tactics have been formally adopted.

Key Partners

  • Schenectady Police Department
    • Special Investigation Unit
  • New York State Police
    • Community Narcotics Enforcement Team
  • Schenectady County Sheriff’s Department
  • Project SAFE

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:


Neighborhood Action:


Proposed Auto Seizure:

Proposed Letters:

Proposed Community Service:

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 City
Population 61531
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