The city of Dayton recently announced a new program designed to reduce demand for prostitution with 21st century tools. The initiative uses digital technology and social media to target people convicted of trying to buy sex. The new campaign is called the Buyer's Remorse initiative.
Officials say it modernizes the city’s longstanding practice of publishing the names and home addresses of people convicted of trying to hire prostitutes.
Under the new program, the city will now publish that information online on a newly created website: buyersremorsecampaign.com.
And they'll use geo-targeting technology to post ads on the social media feeds of people living near convicted sex buyers. The ads will include a link to the website where people can find out who in their community commited the crime.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley says she simply wants people to think twice before coming to the city to buy sex.
“So that's why we’re being as public as possible about it, and being very open,” she says. “It’s not a gotcha.”
Whaley says the program focuses on sex buyers because research suggests many women in the sex trade are often there because of trafficking, or drug addiction. The initiative’s website does include educational resources for individuals involved in prostitution who are seeking help.
“This suggests that the impetus is to get tough, but the question is, is it smart?,” says David Singleton, the executive director of the Cincinnati-based Ohio Justice and Policy Center.
He says he worries about the new policy’s unintended consequences.
“It will shame folks in a way that's going to make it hard for them to be rehabilitated, and there’s going to be the risk of the vigilantes as well as a shame that's brought to the John's family including children and it’s just not worth it.”
Singleton says he’s not yet aware of any legal challenges that could arise out of the new program.
However, Mayor Whaley says shaming sex buyers by using public notices are a proven deterrent.
“Just being more effective at it, I think, it is really what this program's about and using the tools that we have to be more effective, to say, oh well, that’s really effective shaming now so we shouldn't do it, and I don't think makes any sense. This isn’t a victimless crime and these women are being preyed upon,” she says.