U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Research in Brief: Putting Sex Traffickers Out of Business: Combatting Human Trafficking and Prostitution by Reducing the Demand for Commercial Sex

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 81 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2014
Date Published
July 2014
3 pages

Based on the 2012 publication of the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) national compendium of law enforcement strategies to reduce the demand for commercial sex, this article in Police Chief examines the merits of a demand-reduction approach to countering commercial sex, discusses strategies commonly used in the United States, and provides links to guidance, evaluations, and best practices for implementing demand-reduction strategies in jurisdictions. 


Given the covert nature of human trafficking for commercial sex and the rarity of victims identifying themselves as being trafficked, traditional law enforcement interventions and strategies will likely be ineffective in identifying victims and building cases against traffickers. Alternative law enforcement strategies that target the purchasers of commercial sex (demand-reduction strategies) are being considered and tried by law enforcement agencies. NIJ funded research that conducted extensive literature reviews, surveys, and interviews with law enforcement agencies throughout the United State in order to identify commonly used and innovative programs and tactics to reduce the demand for commercial sex. By far, the most commonly used demand-reduction intervention is the street-level reverse sting, in which a police officer or non-law enforcement decoy poses as a prostitute to make arrests of those that exchange money for sex ("johns"). Researchers also compiled available formal evaluations of some demand-reduction strategies. Examples are provided of demand-reduction programs that have been effective in reducing commercial sex in a jurisdiction. The title of the study is "A National Overview of Prostitution and Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Efforts."

Date Published: July 1, 2014