Wilmington, DE

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

Wilmington is the largest city in Delaware, with a population of roughly 73,000. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been documented to occur in the city, as well as multiple murders of prostituted women. This activity and its ancillary crimes has resulted in complaints to local law enforcement from residents and businesses. Targeted homicide and rape of prostituted women have also been reported to occur as a result of the local commercial sex market.

In response to residents’ complaints of prostitution, the Wilmington Police Department began conducting street-level reverse stings in the mid-1970s. One such sting, conducted in May 1974, netted 43 male sex buyers in just over 10 days. Recent operations, which have utilized one or more undercover female officers as decoys, have focused efforts along Delaware Route 9, U.S. Route 13, and other major roadways in the area. Officers may release the men’s names and other identifying information to the local media. “Dear John” letters have also been used as a demand reduction tactic by communities in areas with high levels of commercial sex activity. Such as the Quaker Hill Historic Preservation Foundation, which in 1997, began sending letters to suspected sex buyers in the Quaker Hill community.

In June 2018, seven men were taken into custody after they solicited undercover New Castle County Police officers for sex. The women were posted in Alban Park to act as prostituted persons as patrol officers and detectives surveyed the neighborhood. Those who drove to the area had their vehicles towed by police, and all seven men were issued a criminal summons, then released. The men’s names and other identifying information were included in news releases.

In October 2018, the Drug, Organized Crime and Vice Division of the Wilmington Police Department conducted an undercover operation along Lancaster Avenue and arrested four sex buyers, who were charged with with patronizing a prostitute. The combination sting/reverse sting was conducted in response to community complaints, and the identities of the arrested men were publicized.

Key Partners

State Delaware
Type City
Population 72868
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