John stings: How might the 29 people arrested this week be punished?

Categories: Crime

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John stings, or undercover operations where a cop -- usually a female cop -- poses as a prostitute to catch men willing to pay for sex, are more rare than stings in which the roles are reversed. This week, the Denver police announced the arrests of 29 people as the result of two john stings. A recent study on prostitution enforcement in Denver sheds light on city cops' attitudes toward johns -- and how offenders are usually punished.

The study, called "Who Pays?", was conducted by the Denver-based Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking. It analyzed 2,072 arrests and 856 court cases in Denver, and found that women are arrested for prostitution-related crimes more often than men and are punished more harshly. Researchers think the reason may be tied to perceptions of prostitutes as drug-addicted criminals and johns as regular guys.

Take these quotes from interviews with Denver police officers:

"The only characteristic, when it comes to the buyers, it's 99 percent men."

"Probably 60 percent of them, they are married and do not want us to tell their wives."

"(He pleaded), 'Please don't tell my family. Is this gonna be on TV?' He is quick to say, 'I have never done this before. I made a mistake. I am lonely.'"

"Males are like, 'I am going to find something tonight right now.... I am gonna hit McDonald's, get a blowjob and go back to work.'"

In Colorado, prostitutes and johns are largely charged with the same crimes; one of the most common is "soliciting for prostitution." The Denver police report that the 29 people arrested this past week in john stings were caught for soliciting and/or agreeing to an act of prostitution. Six prostitutes were also arrested, the police say.

The police did not release the gender of the people arrested. But the study notes that john stings, or "reverse stings," most often net males. Of the 2,072 adult arrests analyzed as part of the study, males made up 39 percent, while females made up 61 percent.

The disparity could be because john stings may be harder to conduct due to the fact that there are fewer female officers. One officer told researchers, "We are just so short staffed, and it's hard to cut these girls loose. So you will have a pool of twelve women that can work as decoys, but it will dwindle down. Usually, you get one or two."

Click through to read about how johns are punished.

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