This tactic involves police agencies sending letters to the homes of known or suspected sex buyers. These “Dear John” letters are sometimes sent to the addresses of registered car owners, alerting the owner that the vehicle was seen in an area known for prostitution. The letter also can be sent to the home address of the men arrested in reverse stings. Some jurisdictions have employed electronic messages used in the same way: e.g., in 2014, Santa Rosa (CA) detectives began tracing phone calls and texts responding to their decoy online ad for a web-based reverse sting, and sending “Dear John” letters or messages to identified accounts and addresses. In 2018, the Brown County (WI) Sheriff’s Office used a similar electronic variation of the “Dear John” letter: during a week-long web-based reverse sting, over 400 people who made contact with police online (but did not incriminate themselves enough to warrant charges) were sent written warning messages by police. Often, these letter or electronic messages include warnings about health risks and the harm of commercial sex to communities and survivors.  More than 75 U.S. cities and counties have used these kinds of notifications to help deter sex buyers and to warn others at their homes of potential risks.

For more about this approach, see some examples below of “Dear John” letters and templates in English and in Spanish.

Overview of the Use of “Dear John” Letters

Sample Letters from Police Departments

News Reports About “Dear John” Letters

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