Miami Vice: Inside 'John Stings' and Escort Stings

FBI and police target prostitutes, pimps and johns in undercover operations.

ByABC News
March 20, 2008, 11:41 AM

March 21, 2008 — -- 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.


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."