Fife, WA

Tactics Used

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

Fife is a city of approximately 9,000 residents, located east of Tacoma in Pierce County, Washington. Situated at the juncture of Interstate 5 and State Route 167, the city “consists primarily of businesses such as car dealerships, warehousing and industrial facilities, motels, an Indian casino, drive-through smokeshops, quick-dining restaurants, and other highway-side businesses.” Street and web-based prostitution and sex trafficking, particularly in and around the city’s many roadside motels, has been a persistent problem in the area for several years.

To combat these problems, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office has conducted street-level reverse stings since at least 2008. Fife public officials have also established a series of anti-demand city ordinances. These municipal codes enable the PCSD and Fife Police Department to seize and impound the vehicles of individuals arrested for solicitation, and ban johns from reentering the area where they were arrested. In 2007, the city also expanded its official definition of prostitution and solicitation to include those who “solicit, advertise, or otherwise agree to engage in an act of prostitution… by any means including but not limited to violations facilitated by: the use of a computer, including the use of the Internet, the World Wide Web, electronic mail, message board, news group, or any other commercial or noncommercial online service; the use of a telephone or voicemail system; or the use of a pager.”

Most significantly, Fife officials partnered with leadership from the neighboring communities of Lakewood and Tacoma to establish a john school. The diversion program, established in 2005, offers first time offenders the opportunity to expunge the misdemeanor charge from their record pending their completion of a daylong seminar (and ability to avoid rearrest). To attend, johns must submit to HIV and other STD tests, and complete “work restitution.” The course, which consists of a series of presentations from local law enforcement, public health officials, and former prostituted women, requires a $600 enrollment fee, 80% of which “goes to social services aimed at getting prostituted women off the streets.”


Key Sources

State Washington
Type City
Population 9235
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