Winchester, VA

Tactics Used

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

Winchester is a city of approximately 26,000 residents, located along Virginia’s northwestern border about 25 miles south of Martinsburg, West Virginia. Local law enforcement and residents have reported problems related to prostitution in the city, with activities often concentrated in and around adult-oriented businesses (such as massage parlors).

To address the issue, the Winchester Police Department has conducted at least two stings targeting johns. In summer 2006, officers responded to citizens’ complaints about a spike in prostitution activity in the North Cameron Street area of the city and sent both male and female officers undercover as decoy johns and prostituted women. Six individuals, including three sex buyers, were arrested as a result. All had their names and arrest photos published by local media outlets.

In April 2014, WPD officers conducted a web-based reverse sting resulting in the arrest of 11 johns. Following the investigation, a WPD spokeswoman reported that police had used “confidential informants and internet advertising in setting up the arrests,” and that “defendants [had] responded to the online advertising by appearing at an unidentified Winchester hotel. Police arrested them after they exchanged money for sex.” When asked about the impetus for the operation, the spokeswoman stated:

“The goal of these undercover investigations is to send a message to the public that we will not tolerate this illegal behavior in the city, and we will charge.”

Key Partners

  • Winchester Police Department
  • Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office
State Virginia
Type City
Population 25733
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