St. Johns County, FL

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

St. Johns County is a county of just under 300,000 residents, located on the northeastern shore of Florida, near Jacksonville. St. Augustine is the county seat and largest city. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the communities and unincorporated areas of the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses.

Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies in their strategy for prevention and response. In addition to city-level efforts to combat prostitution, local law enforcement sometimes conducts countywide reverse stings to apprehend sex buyers. For example, in August of 2014, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office conducted a web-based sting that resulted in the arrest 14 people at an undisclosed hotel in the area during an investigation targeting “men and women soliciting sex or offering sexual favors in return for monetary compensation by advertising on a social media site.” Following Operation Summer Lovin’, the SJCSO released the names of each of the arrestees to the public, but did not disclose the specific charges filed against them. According to media reports, at least one sex buyer was arrested during the operation; seven other men were also arrested, but it is unclear if they were attempting to procure, purchase or offer commercial sex.

In 2018, it was announced that over the prior seven years, St. Johns County undercover operations using the internet to locate and identify people looking to sexually exploit children had led to 75 arrests. In April 2019, an announcement was made about the arrest of nine men in a “child sex sting” that was orchestrated by St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office undercover detectives. The undercover detectives posed as children online and arranged meetings with unknown individuals in St. Johns County. Nine individuals traveled in an attempt to solicit children and were arrested, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Their identities were included in news releases.

In March, 2009, Nease High School fired its girls soccer coach after the man pleaded guilty to a charge of soliciting prostitution during an undercover sting in Jacksonville. The Nease principal said that the man was r is “no longer our soccer coach” and the Athletic Director said the man wouldn’t return following the incident. According to a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office report, he had approached an undercover officer and offered $20 in exchange for sex. The school district sent him a letter after his arrest, informing him he wouldn’t be rehired. The man had been listed as a trainer and a coach of an under-12 girls team with the Jacksonville Youth Soccer Club on its Web site.  One of the sex buyers arrested in the August, 2014 reverse sting mentioned above was a Palkata detective. The detective was immediately suspended with pay, but ultimately resigned as a result of his arrest.

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

  • “Statewide Prostitution Ring Busted”, St. Augustine Record, September 13 2000.
  • “Woman Accused of Running Prostitution Ring in 7 Cities”, Fort Pierce Tribune, September 13 2000.

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Florida
Type County
Population 292466
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