Stafford County, VA

Tactics Used

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

Stafford County is a county of approximately 124,000 residents, located along Virginia’s northern border. Prostitution has been identified by law enforcement as a problem in the county, and residents have frequently complained to police.  Human trafficking also occurs in the county, facilitated by its location along the Interstate 95 corridor.  In response to such concerns, police have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex. In 1991, the Stafford County Sheriff’s Department incorporated the use of street-level reverse stings to identify and apprehend local sex buyers. Operations typically utilize undercover female officers as decoys. Once arrested, johns may have their names and other identifying information released to the media. More recently, web-based reverse stings have been conducted, some of which involve investigators posing as minors and arresting predators seeking to purchase sex with children. For example, in March 2012, Stafford detectives conducted a web-based reverse sting to arrest a man attempting to solicit sex from a minor. The man contacted an undercover officer he believed to be a 13-year-old girl, and was intercepted when he arranged to meet the officer for sex at a Stafford hotel.

In 2016, legislation was proposed and then approved by the Virginia State Crime Commission that would create a statewide sex trafficking response coordinator, who would be tasked with creating a response plan when a trafficking victim is identified and guidelines for treatment programs.  The coordinator would also oversee the creation of the proposed “John schools” for people convicted of soliciting prostitution.  The school, which they would be ordered to attend by a judge (and would not be a “diversion” option resulting in dismissed charges), would teach “the consequences and the background of what they’re really buying,” according to the commission’s deputy director.  The training, education and awareness programs would be funded by new fines assessed on people convicted of either soliciting prostitution ($100) or trafficking ($500).


Key Partners

  • Stafford County Sheriff’s Office


Key Sources

Reverse Stings:

  • “Six Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, The Free Lance-Star, July 24 1991.

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Background on prostitution and sex trafficking:

State Virginia
Type County
Population 124166
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