Williamsburg, VA

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

Williamsburg is an independent city of about 15,600 residents located on the Virginia Peninsula, in the northern part of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. 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.
A local law enforcement respondent to the 2022 National Assessment Survey reported that web based reverse stings, other buyer arrests, public education, and neighborhood action neighborhood action specifically addressing demand have occurred in Williamsburg since 2018.

Key Partners

  • Williamsburg Police Department

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey, 2022

Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:

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 15590
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