Brooklyn, NY

Tactics Used

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

Reverse Stings

Brooklyn, NY, like most large cities, has a long history of commercial sex activity.  Law enforcement responses have historically focused on arresting prostituted women and girls, rather than male sex buyers.  The first known reverse sting operation in Brooklyn occurred in 1995.  It is quite possible that reverse things had been used before then, but we were unable to find earlier instances.  Reverse stings in the late 1990s would sometimes produce more than 50 arrests in a weekend.  When used in the commission of the crime, the autos of arrestees may be seized.  There have been instances where the identities of arrested men have been publicized, but shaming is not a routinely used tactic for deterring sex buyers.

John School

A key component of Brooklyn’s attempts to combat demand for commercial sex is a john school program called Project Respect.  The program began in 2002, and has operated continuously through to the present.  Project Respect was specifically modeled after the First Offender Prostitution Program (FOPP) in San Francisco, although it has been adapted to fit local conditions and resources.  Like the FOPP, Project Respect is a diversion program in which men (1) pay a fee, (2) attend a one-day educational program, and you (3) avoid rearrest for six months in order to successfully complete the program and to have their case dismissed.   The program fee was initially $250, and was recently raised to $350 (the FOPP charges up to $1,000 on a sliding scale, and the average fee collected is about $750).

Project Respect classes run approximately four to five hours, and are held every 2nd month.  Classes typically have between 50 and 100 participants.  The content of the educational element of the Brooklyn john school is fairly standard, covering topics including:

  • Impact on Survivors.  Survivors of commercial sex presenting about the dangers and trauma they experienced and attempting to puncture the math of prostitution as harmless or a victimless crime
  • Health Consequences.  Public health professionals explaining health risks, focusing on infectious disease and sexually transmitted infections, involving graphic slide presentations
  • Legal Consequences.  Prosecutors explaining the legal consequences the men will face if they are subsequently arrested for soliciting sex, including a discussion of how they have used up their only opportunity for better version and more serious consequences will result from subsequent arrests
  • Negative Community Impact.  Members of community groups give presentations about the negative impact of prostitution and sex trafficking on neighborhoods and businesses, including discussions of residents being harassed by both buyers and sellers of sex; dangerous litter such as syringes and used condoms which are commonly found near street prostitution; and discussion of a host of street crimes that are both attracted to and generated by commercial sex – e.g.  assault, kidnapping, drug abuse, and homicide.

Project respect is managed by the Kings County District Attorney’s office, in close collaboration with the New York Police Department, the Department of Health and Human Services, and community advocates.  Translators are provided when needed, including those speaking German, Russian, Chinese, and Creole.  There are often enough Spanish-speaking johns so that a separate session is held concurrently, in that language.


Key Partners

  • Kings County District Attorney’s Office
  • New York Police Department
  • Department of Health and Human Services (Fort Greene Health Center)
  • Survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking

Key Sources

State New York
Type City
Population 2527010
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