This tactic involves police agencies sending letters to the homes of known or suspected sex buyers. These “Dear John” letters are sometimes addressed to registered car owners, alerting the owner that the vehicle was seen in the area known for prostitution. The letter also can be sent to the home address of the johns arrested in reverse stings, and more recently, some jurisdictions have employed electronic messages used in the same way.  For example, 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 web0based reverse sting, 409 people who police made contact with online, but did not incriminate themselves enough to warrant charges, were sent written warnings by police.The letters usually include warnings citing health risks and the harm of commercial sex to communities and survivors.  More than 65 U.S. cities and counties have used these kinds of letters 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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