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.
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.
- 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
- John School:
- “Neighborhood Report: Downtown Brooklyn — Buzz; A School for Scandal and Its Patrons”, New York Times, September 8 2002.
- “Ask the DA: What Happens to the Johns?”, Kings County District Attorney’s Office.
- “School for Johns”, Village Voice, May 3 2005.
- “Inside a Brooklyn ‘John School'”, ABC News, March 20 2007.
- “EXCLUSIVE: Brooklyn’s ‘John School’ is Working”, New York Post, May 7 2012.
- “Trafficking Class for Men Using Prostitutes”, CNN Freedom Project, August 13 2012.
- Reverse Stings:
- “A Winning Proposition for Cops: Officers Get Wider Leeway on Quality-of-Life Arrests”, Newsday, August 25 1994.
- “Neighborhood Report: Northern Brooklyn; New Tactics in Fighting Prostitution”, New York Times, October 9 1994.
- “87 Arrests in Crackdown on Prostitution”, New York Times, June 2 1997.
- “Former Deputy Mayor Arraigned on Sex Charge”, New York Times, August 14 1997.
- “L.I. Groom Wanted Sex (Just) Before Marriage”, New York Post, September 26 1999.
- “Don’t Even Ask About Extra Credit”, New York Times, February 13 2005.
- “Brooklyn Police Blotter”, New York Daily News, April 20 2007.
- “Undercover Cops Pose as Prostitutes, Arrest 186 Johns”, Gothamist, January 17 2012.
- “Police Kill Armed Man During Brooklyn Prostitution Bust”, New York Magazine, September 21 2012.
- “Mister Cee to Address Prostitution Arrest on Hot 97 Morning Show”, All Hip Hop, May 4 2013.
- “Operation Losing Proposition: Prostitution-Related Arrests Citywide”, Brooklyn News Corp, January 29 2014.
- “6 Arrested on Staten Island in Citywide Anti-Prostitution Sting”, Staten Island Advance, January 30 2014.
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Globalization’s Underside: Sex Trafficking in Brooklyn”, Brooklyn Rail, August 2003.
- “Man and Woman Arrested After Girl, 13, Is Raped in Brooklyn”, New York Times, June 10 2004.
- “A Look at the Harrowing Lives of Child Prostitutes”, New York Times, July 3 2008.
- “8 Staten Islanders Among 14 Swept Up in Mob Probe”, Staten Island Advance, April 20 2010.
- “8 Charged in Sex-Trafficking Case in Brooklyn’, New York Times, June 2 2010.
- “4 in Brooklyn Charged with Sex Trafficking”, New York Times, November 21 2011.
- “Manhattan Prosecutors Focus on Pimps and Clients, Instead of Prostitutes”, New York Times, May 2 2012.
- “Rapper Convicted in Maryland Prostitution Ring”, Washington Post, May 9 2013.
- “Judge Dismisses Human Trafficking Victim’s Non-Prostitution Charges”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 22 2013.
- “Brooklyn DA Shuts Down 5 ‘Spas’, Indicts 12 on Prostitution Allegations”, CBS/WCBS-TV 2, September 9 2013.
- “More Arrests in Brooklyn Massage Parlor Sex Trafficking Ring”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 10 2013.
- “NY Pimp Sentenced to 36 Years for Sex Trafficking”, Washington Afro American, September 20 2013.
- “4 Brooklyn Residents Indicted in Connection with Kidnapping and Promoting Prostitution of 13-Year-Old Girls,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 2 2015.
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “2 Brooklyn Areas Fight Prostitution, With Contrasting Results”, New York Times, November 6 1974.
- “Man Accused of Forcing Four Girls to Be Prostitutes”, New York Times, August 13 1997.
- “Officials Say Sex Trade Lures Young Girls”, New York Times, December 7 2002.
- “Offering Young Prostitutes Chance to Stay Out of Jail”, New York Times, July 7 2004.
- “Amid Claims of Rising Prostitution, Complaints, Followed by Arrests”, New York Times, May 8 2005.
- “As Other Crimes Recede, Street Prostitution Keeps Its Wily Hold”, New York Times, February 12 2012.
- “Clinton Hill Park Continues to Be Riddled with Prostitution and Drugs, Residents Say”, New York Daily News, August 27 2012.
- “Police in Brooklyn Are Told Not to Seize Condoms of Prostitutes”, New York Times, May 29 2013.
- “Sex on the Side: Residents Fear Massage Parlors House Prostitutes”, Courier Life’s Brooklyn Daily, June 13 2013.
- “Couple to Appear in Brooklyn Federal Court on Charges of Facilitating Prostitution,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 18 2013.
- “City Shuts down 9 Massage Parlors in Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 5 2014.
- “Brooklyn D.A. to Get Federal Funds to Fight Sex Traffickers,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 7 2015.
- Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Cop Nabbed for Rape, Abuse of Prostitutes”, Daytona Beach Morning Journal, November 29 1985.
- “Woman Killed with Crossbow; Student Nabbed”, Schenectady Gazette, October 24 1987.
- “Boys Raped Woman, Then Went to Play, Police Say”, Tuscaloosa News, November 17 1993.
- “Long Island Man Arrested in Murders of Prostitutes”, Norwalk Hour, April 8 1996.
- “Prostitutes Lead to Police to Confessed Murderer”, Lawrence Journal-World, April 9 1996.