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. In 2014, Santa Rosa 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. The letters usually include warnings citing health risks and the harm of commercial sex to communities and survivors. More than 50 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
- Dear John Letter Overview from National Assessment (PDF, 380 KB)
Sample Letters from Police Departments
- Arlington TX “Dear John” Postcard (DOCX, 189.4KB)
- Raleigh NC “Dear John Letter” Templates (DOCX, 17.1KB)
- Sanford FL Sample Community_Safety_Letter (PDF, 263 KB)
- Escambia County CA Sheriff’s Office “Dear John” Letter (DOCX, 431.7KB)
- Sarasota, FL Sample “Advisory Letter” from Sarasota Police Department
News Reports About “Dear John” Letters
- Baltimore, MD:
- Covington, KY:
- Daytona Beach, FL:
- Hollywood, FL:
- Norristown, PA:
- Oakland, CA: ‘Dear John’ Letters: New Tool to Fight Prostitution
- Sanford, FL:
- Santa Rosa, CA:
- Sarasota, FL:
- Vallejo, CA:
- ‘Dear John’: Police Sending Letters To Prostitution Clients
- Rohrs, S. (2011). Vallejo police to use “Dear John” letters in prostitution fight. Times-Herald.
- Worcester, MA: