Williamsburg, VA

Tactics Used

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

Williamsburg is an independent city of about 14,000 residents located on the Virginia Peninsula, in the northern part of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area of the state. It is bordered by James City County and York County, and lies between Richmond and Newport News/Hampton metro regions.  Prostitution and sex trafficking are well documented problems within the city, and throughout the region, dating back to the 1800s.  Recent examples include a case in 2013 in which two women were arrested in Williamsburg in a prostitution sting at an unidentified apartment complex. Williamsburg Police Department officers monitored a conversation between two women and an undercover person who was cooperating with police. The women are alleged to have discussed various sexual acts with the person before one suspect disrobed and accepted $40 for the anticipated act.  Police then intervened and arrested both women, who admitted they had been engaging in acts of prostitution.  One suspect faced one count of detaining a person for prostitution and one count of receiving money from that act, both of which are felonies. Another suspect faced one count of prostitution or solicitation of a prostitute, also a felony.  In July, 2019, a man wanted on charges of sex trafficking in Virginia was arrested and jailed after a weeklong manhunt that came to an end when he surrendered to police after barricading himself in a Williamsburg motel room. Williamsburg police said the man had allegedly tried to force two victims into prostitution the prior week. Police were initially called after motel maintenance workers heard noises coming from a supposedly vacant room. When the workers entered the room, the suspect pointed a gun at them and told them to get on the ground and then barricaded himself in another vacant room at the motel.

To address such problems, police have used demand reduction tactics including reverse stings and publicizing the identities of sex buyers.  For example, in January, 2020, twelve male sex buyers were arrested and  charged as the result of a prostitution operation in Williamsburg. Police said they conducted five undercover operations starting in November at various locations in the city, resulting in the arrest of 12 men on charges included soliciting prostitution and “frequenting a bawdy place,” and a 13th person for prostitution.  The identities of all those arrested were disclosed in news reports.

Key Partners

  • Williamsburg Police Department

Key Sources

Reverse Sting, Shaming:

Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:

Background on Regional Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation:

Background on Prostitution in the Region:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Region:

State Virginia
Type City
Population 14068
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