Changes in Arrest Patterns of Buyers and Sellers of Commercial Sex: An Interrupted Time-Series Analysis

  • Alexander H. UpdegroveEmail author
  • Lisa R. Muftic
  • Erin A. Orrick


Although the commercial sex trade consists of three distinct parties—buyers, sellers, and facilitators—sellers are the most likely to be criminalized for their role in prostitution. In 2015, the Texas state legislature passed Senate Bill (S.B.) 825. This bill created separate offense codes for buyers and sellers of commercial sex. Prior to this, buyers and sellers were legally indistinguishable from each other under Texas law. Legally distinguishing buyers from sellers recognizes that different roles exist within the commercial sex trade, and serves as a necessary prerequisite for creating divergent pathways for individuals in these roles (e.g., targeting buyers with criminal sanctions, but providing sellers with access to victim services and diversion programs). This study examined whether S.B. 825 was associated with a shift in the number of buyers and sellers arrested for prostitution in Harris County, Texas. Findings revealed that the enactment of S.B. 825 corresponded with an increase in the number of prostitution arrests buyers accounted for, and an observable decrease in the number of prostitution arrests sellers accounted for. These changes remained relatively stable over a one-year period after the bill took effect.


Prostitution Sex work Arrest decision Police discretion Law enforcement 



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Copyright information

© Southern Criminal Justice Association 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander H. Updegrove
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lisa R. Muftic
    • 2
  • Erin A. Orrick
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Criminal Justice and CriminologySam Houston State UniversityHuntsvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Criminal Justice & SociologyWestern New England UniversitySpringfieldUSA

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