Charlotte, NC

Tactics Used

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

Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina, with approximately 751,000 residents. Street prostitution has been a persistent and visible problem in the city for over 20 years, and child sex trafficking has also been well-documented.  Prostitution-related violence has also been reported. To address the issue, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department employs several tactics that aim to identify and apprehend sex buyers. Police have conducted street-level reverse stings since at least 1991. Operations are still routinely conducted, using one or more undercover female officers as decoys. Once arrested, johns may be subject to auto seizure, if they attempted to solicit sex from a vehicle. They may also be served with SOAP (or Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution) orders, barring them from reentering areas of the city known for commercial sex sales (dubbed Prostitution Exclusion Zones). If a convicted john reenters the area, he will be immediately arrested for trespassing.

In recent years, the CMPD has expanded investigations to include web-based john stings. One such sting, conducted in July 2009, saw the CMPD’s Narcotics and Vice Unit engage with solicitors posting to Craigslist. Officers arranged to meet johns and prostituted women in motels along the city’s I-77 corridor. A total of 15 offenders were arrested.

In addition to stringent punishments for arrestees, the CMPD also utilizes a handful of key deterrents in the hopes of discouraging johns from offending in the first place. For example, if a vehicle is seen idling in or circling around a city block known for street prostitution, police may send a letter to the owner’s home address notifying the individual (and all other residents) that they were seen in the area. Similarly, the CMPD and city council began airing the names and photos of arrested johns on a local TV access channel in late 2000, as a warning to other would-be sex buyers. While it is unclear whether the show (dubbed “Shame TV”) is still running, officers reported that, between 2000 and 2003, none of the individuals publicized were subsequently rearrested.

As of August 2005, some first-time offenders charged with solicitation in Charlotte or Mecklenburg County may be offered the opportunity to have their charges dropped in exchange for completing a 10-hour diversion program. Led by counselors at the McLeod Center, the john school requires arrestees to attend lectures and participate in discussions about addiction, sexually transmitted diseases, and respect for women. All attendees must also submit to a HIV test.


Key Partners

  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department
  • Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office
  • McLeod Center
  • FBI
  • U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey and Interviews

John School:

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:


SOAP Orders:


Neighborhood Action:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State North Carolina
Type City
Population 671588
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