Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley talks about a new city initiative aimed at curbing prostitution on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 at City Hall. The city will list the names and addresses of men convicted of prostitution-related offenses, then buy geo-targeted social media ads to inform the men’s neighbors. STAFF JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
Photo: JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
Photo: JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

Convicted of buying sex? Dayton will tell your neighbors via Facebook.

If you are convicted of buying sex from a prostitute in the city of Dayton, city officials are going to do their best to make sure your neighbors know about it … in 21st century style.

The city of Dayton will begin buying specially targeted Facebook advertisements linked to the addresses of men who buy sex. The ads will tell people that one of their neighbors has been convicted and will give them a link to a web site listing the men’s names, addresses and crimes.

“Prostitution follows the law of supply and demand, just like any other industry,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said. “That is why we are making sure that the men who come to Dayton to buy sex can no longer hide their crimes. This press conference is meant to serve as a warning.”

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The city has launched a web site at buyersremorsecampaign.com, currently featuring a video explaining the project as well as resources for people involved in prostitution and human trafficking. In the video, Whaley says the city will buy ads “so people’s friends, family members, spouses, colleagues will know that you bought sex in the city of Dayton.”

Dayton Police Maj. Brian Johns said the city will begin tracking the cases of men arrested for prostitution-related offenses (loitering for prostitution, soliciting or prostitution). City documents say the names will only be published for men who are convicted, on cases involving an arrest Feb. 10, 2019, or later. Johns said given time for the court process, that means the first names will be listed, and advertisements bought, in May.

Whaley said another reason the city is focusing on the men buying sex is because the women involved in prostitution are almost never there by choice, with most facing addiction. Whaley and Johns both said they want women in prostitution to get treatment.

Amy Cornelius is the founder of Sidewalk Soldiers, a local group that supports women who are in prostitution and aims to get them out of the industry. Cornelius said she was battling addiction when a human trafficker lured her in and “sold her a dream.” She said she was pulled away from family and friends into that life, leading to three years where she was hospitalized six times.

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It has been almost six years since she got out, and now she and other Sidewalk Soldiers go to women currently in prostitution, showing them resources and ways to get out. But she said it’s hard work as the women are battling addiction and trauma and are hesitant to trust.

“A lot of them have been beaten, raped, pulled away from their families, they’re in addiction. They’ve lived a life that’s beyond a nightmare,” she said.

But she said she’s proof that women can get out and have a great life. And she said the city’s new approach will be a good deterrent, because a lot of the men who buy sex from prostitutes are married with families and lead a normal life.

Johns said Dayton police have used a variety of approaches to combat the prostitution issue in recent years, turning their focus from the women providing to the men buying in 2012 or 2013. He cited a 2011 academic study in which men who bought sex from prostitutes said having their crimes publicized was an effective deterrent.

But Johns said the same Dayton streets have been problem areas for prostitution for many years, naming North Main, East Third, and Xenia Avenue.

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“Prostitution makes our city less safe. It puts vulnerable women in dangerous situations and makes our community less attractive to development and investment,” Whaley said.

Dayton Police data show 140 arrests for soliciting in 2018 and 122 for loitering for prostitution. Both numbers are at least 20 percent higher than any of the past three years. Johns said the buyers come from all walks of life, and Whaley said more than half come from outside the city limits.

City officials hope the new shaming campaign will help dry up the supply of buyers.

“I want to say to men who come into Dayton for this, if you come into our home to purchase sex, then we’ll use the power of social media to follow you to yours,” Johns said.

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