A nationwide sex trafficking - or prostitution - crackdown led to more than 750 arrests in the days leading up to and including Super Bowl Sunday.

Targeting the buyers, the “Johns Suppression Initiative” was the 13th operation that included law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

We got a chance to ride along on a recent weekday, undercover sting with Reno police.  This is part one in a two part series in a story you will only see on Channel 2.

It’s a regular Thursday, about 11:00 am when we take our positions in various spots near 4th Street in downtown Reno. The sounds and sights of an undercover “John” operation may look tame, but the crime is very real and very common in Reno.

The undercover detective we’re riding with, explains what we’re about to witness; "I almost kinda liken it to drug addicts that need to get their fix and what not."

Yes, even in the middle of the day. The problem begins with demand - Johns looking to pay for sex.

"Prices out here on the street are way cheaper than the hotel stuff and the online stuff", says the detective.

An undercover female officer poses as the prostitute. She slowly walks the block as interested men start to circle in their cars, then make contact. It doesn't take long.

The female officer says the men are often quite honest with her; "My wife thinks I'm picking up the dry cleaning, or I'm on the way to the airport to pick up my wife and my parents are watching my children.’ She says, “It's kinda shocking, their brazen disregard for their families."

And an obvious disregard for the trafficked woman or girl, "We had a 14 year old that was on the street" says the detective.

The men and women of the Reno Street Enforcement Team have rescued girls as young as 12 from sex trafficking. They run these undercover busts as often as possible.

"We need to push it out in front of the public's eye and expose it for the dirty little secret that it is", says the detective.

The female undercover continues her slow stroll on 4th Street, making eye contact with potential buyers.  Despite what we see in movies, police can and will lie about being an officer.

An entire team is watching... to keep the undercover safe, ready to grab the criminal. 

A man stops his car and signals to the undercover, she leans into the car window and the two negotiate a price for services.  She offers a price of $50, the driver agrees. The detectives listening to the exchange now begin communicating with each other; "Talking the act, agreed on the price - 50" says one of the undercovers.

And with that interaction, a crime is committed.  The team will now surround the John's car, he will be temporarily detained and cited for solicitation.

Shocked and somewhat ashamed, the three men caught during the mid-day operation were not arrested, but will face a fine around $500 and a mandatory appearance before a judge.

One officer warns the Johns; “If you don't show up to court you're gonna get a warrant issued for ya."

Plus there's a required report with the health district.

"There's a law requiring that people get tested for HIV when they're arrested for solicitation or for prostitution,” says Jennifer Howell with Washoe County Health District “and we wanna make sure that testing is done." Howell works with RPD and sets up a mobile unit where the men are detained. There she offers a free HIV screening. Proof of the test, not the results, will be forwarded to the judge handling the case.

This John operation was focused on downtown Reno, other stings target the online world of sex trafficking.

For more information on sex trafficking as well as help for those who would like to get out of the life, contact:

(775) 393-9183
Awaken INC
P.O. Box 40635
Reno, NV 89504