Miami Vice: Inside 'John Stings' and Escort Stings

There are an estimated 100,000 arrests for prostitution every year, but how do law enforcement officers infiltrate the underground world of the commercial sex industry? And who are the johns behind the tidal wave of demand fueling the commercial sex industry in America?

The FBI and the Justice Department operate "Innocence Lost," a federal initiative to combat sex crimes against children through domestic sex trafficking or child prostitution.

Innocence Lost has task forces set up in 23 cities around the country.

Miami was one of the first 13 cities assigned a task force, "not because of the weather, but it has one of the highest levels of juvenile prostitution in the country," said Sgt. Kelly Sullivan of the Metro Dade Police Department Innocence Lost Vice Task Force.

The FBI works with local law enforcement to plan stings targeting pimps and to rescue minors, but they also conduct "prostitution reversal stings" targeting the johns.

ABC News was granted rare access to a john sting on the streets of Miami and to an escort sting in a high-class hotel.


The Sting on the Street

On a warm Friday night -- the day of the week chosen because it's pay day -- the so-called john sting was set up in a rough neighborhood in North Miami near a "track," or an area known for street prostitution.

"They usually put us out when it's dark," said a decoy named Nicole. "More johns come out after work, after dinner, after they spend time with their family, they come out."

About 70 officers gathered for a briefing at the mobile booking station set up in a parking lot. One officer described the plan for the night.

"We're going to rotate [the girls] around -- we'll have two to three girls at a time."

"Most of you know them," the officer said, referring to the five decoys who were about to change into their "uniforms" for the sting. "Those of you who don't, take a good look at them, they will be dressed differently."

The women put on heels, revealing clothing and makeup. "I'm trying to make it seem like I got punched in the face or something," said one of the female officers, named Nikki.

"Because when I work in this particular area they always think I'm a cop because I look too clean. I'm trying to get the street look a little bit."

"They also look at our teeth, and if we have most of them, they know that we're cops anyway," another decoy officer explained. "So we try to distract them with other things."

While the decoys dressed, undercover agents headed out to the sting location to "sweep" for the real prostitutes and to get them off the streets.

The agents found several women working the streets, most with crack in their possession and one who was visibly pregnant. One woman named Carol offered two officers sex for $40 each and was arrested on the spot.

Once a sting begins, the decoys are under constant surveillance by the police. After a john pulls over and names an act and a price, the decoy signals the teams of cops who then arrest the johns.

On this night, the johns arrived almost immediately and takedowns were shouted over the police radio: "All right, Marilyn's got one in the hole. A white male, a 4x4 blue Chevy. He's with Marilyn right now. White male. He's going westbound, westbound."

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