Wyandanch is a hamlet of approximately 12,000 residents, located within the town of Babylon in Suffolk County, New York. As in the neighboring communities of Copiague and Amityville, prostitution emerged as a formidable problem in the late 1980s. Among the more serious outcomes of the local commercial sex market was the murder of a prostituted woman in 1995 that remains unsolved.
In response to the apparent ineffectiveness of police sweeps that arrested just the women engaged in prostitution, the Suffolk County Police Department turned to addressing consumer-level demand, and launched efforts to arrest and shame sex buyers. In 1991, over 60 sex buyers were arrested. A community organization, the Wyandanch Civic Association, then initiated a “Dear John Letter” campaign. Using a list provided by police, it sent letters to the homes of 63 men charged with solicitation. The letters arrived at the men’s homes with the words “Patronizing a Prostitute” written in bold red ink on the envelope and a copy of the police report (with the accused man’s name highlighted) inside.
- Suffolk County Police Department
- Wyandanch Civic Association
Reverse Stings, Shaming:
- “Suffolk Cops Cracking Down on Johns: For First Time, Are Using Women Officers as Decoys”, Newsday, November 16 1988.
- “15 Charged as ‘Johns'”, Newsday, May 15 1990.
- “53 Arrested in Eight Days; Temptation of Sex Keeps SCPD Busy”, Suffolk Life Newspapers, October 2 2002.
Letters and Neighborhood Action:
- “Mad as Hell and Fighting Back”, Newsday, February 25 1991.
- “LI ‘Dear John’ Campaign Becomes Lively TV Debate”, Newsday, June 28 1991.
- “Stung by Prostitution, Town Shames Customers”, New York Times, July 18 1991.
- “Communities Take on Patrons of Prostitutes”, USA Today, November 13 1991.
- “Retaking Straight Path; Wyandanch Residents Target High-Crime Street for Renewal”, Newsday, June 22 1993.
- “Clearing the Path in Wyandanch: Community Hopes Federal Money Aids Revitalization”, Newsday, February 11 2000.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Drugs, Prostitution and Disease; Police Link Vice Surge to Crack”, Newsday, June 2 1989.
- “Prostitution House Raided; 6 Arrested”, Newsday, December 6 1992.
- “Wyandanch Seeks U.S. Help in Fighting Crime”, New York Times, October 7 1993.
- “Prostitution Sting Rounds Up 11 Women”, New York Daily News, February 26 1997.
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area: