This month, during a prostitution sting in Reno, 12 men were caught trying to buy sex illegally, downtown. 

It was part of a national effort targeting the buyers - or johns - who are driving the sex trafficking trade all over the U.S.

Now a Nevada assembly woman has joined forces with advocates and law enforcement to propose a new law to reduce the crime.

Channel 2 News rode along during the undercover operation with the Regional Street Enforcement Team (SET) and spoke with the legislator about the new bill.

It’s a regular Thursday, mid-morning. We sit in an unmarked car in downtown Reno with an undercover detective, in a part of town well known for illegal prostitution.

"Every city has one. Like Sacramento it's Watt Avenue, us, it's 4th street" says the detective.

Here you will find working girls, their traffickers - or pimps and, of course, the customers - or Johns.

"There's an attitude that this is okay and we turn the other way and as a society, this is leading to cycles of violence and crime", says Republican Assemblywoman Jill Tolles, who represents District 25 in Washoe County.

The detective says he’s given a lot of thought to what could make a difference when it comes to the buyers, "I think if we can address the demand side, and to put it bluntly - scare them into worrying about if they're gonna get arrested."

In 2015, Nevada was the state with the highest number of calls, per capita, to the National Human Trafficking hotline. Law makers and advocates want to put a stop to illegal prostitution.

The goal is to increase undercover operations and increase penalties.

"Right now, the fines are, that it's a misdemeanor", explains Tolles. The assemblywoman  is introducing a new bill that would mandate a minimum $500 fee the first time a john gets caught, repeat offenders would be charged with a gross misdemeanor and penalties could reach as high as $1,500. 

The fines would help support prevention programs like john schools. "Where they really communicate to these buyers how they're part of a much larger industry that continues these cycles of violence and abuse and exploitation," explains Tolles.

The assemblywoman recently joined Regional Street Enforcement Team on the prostitution sting - targeting the johns.  She says she learned a lot from the experience. "…men of all shapes and sizes, all walks of life. I was amazed at how many were stacked up one after another in that busy four to six hour, on their way home from work, almost like they're stopping at a Starbucks."

The proposed bill is self-funding and currently has no opposition in the legislature. It can be currently tracked as BDR (Bill Draft Request) 15-821. To contact Assemblywoman Jill Tolles:

Anyone with questions or in need of resources regarding sex trafficking can contact:

Awaken INC
P.O. Box 40635
Reno, NV 89504