In WGBH’s recent series on storefront brothels that pose as massage parlors, a former customer who goes by the alias Tom said that he often skipped noon-time meals so that he could feed his illicit sex habit instead.

“There were a few times I did it at work, at lunch," he said. "I was definitely distracted."

Tom is not alone. On any given day there are 9,000 searches in the Boston area on internet sites for places to buy sex, according to Demand Abolition, a local anti-human trafficking organization. Attorney General Maura Healey tells WGBH News that most of those web searches take place on the job.

“The fact of the matter is this afternoon there will be men throughout downtown Boston who log on to these sites and who will look to make appointments on the way home,” she said

That is why Healey and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh say they have partnered with executives from 23 local corporations and nonprofits to form a coalition of businesses, government agencies and long-time activists to press for zero-tolerance for buying sex. Some of those involved include IBM, Google, Deloitte and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

The new initiative is called Employers Against Sex Trafficking (EAST). EAST has been in the works for more than a year in collaboration with the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Alliance for Business Leadership, and the Massachusetts Business Roundtable. Boston also was an early supporter of the CEASE Network (Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation). The partnership also includes My Life My Choice and The Eva Center.

A study by the DC-based Polaris Project finds that the largest percentage of purchasers of prostituted children and adults are white men like Tom with post-graduate degrees, making more than $100,000 a year. Bob Rivers, the chief executive officer of Eastern Bank, said he is “quite familiar” with this demographic. At a press conference convened by the attorney general’s office, Rivers said that at the next company forum he would put Eastern Bank employees on notice.

“Letting them know that we have the capabilities to monitor their computer activity, and we will," he said. "And I think that’s really the message to the business community: That the technology does exist to monitor your activity in respect to these sites.”

Some executives and anti-trafficking activists following the press conference admitted that this move would likely be controversial, given heightened concerns over internet privacy.

Many of the searches of the more than 20,000 sex-for-hire ads posted online each month in the Boston area were traced to work computers, according to the 2016 Demand Abolition study.

The new EAST initiative comes just two months after federal legislation led to the shuttering of what law enforcement officials described as the most notorious online marketer of prostituted women, men and children: But with the fall of Backpage another site has risen in popularity, according to the traffic-statistic monitoring site Alexa. Former Backpage users in Massachusetts are now flocking to a Canadian-registered entity called, and prostitution review sites like Rubmaps continue to operate uninterrupted.

Some experts believe trying to stamp out sex trafficking is like playing a game of whack-a-mole, so I asked Healey why she thinks EAST can make a difference:

“That’s exactly why we’re attacking the demand side of this, and the ability of adults to lure young people into this life," she said. "It is something I know you’ve written about and I know that my team of lawyers and prosecutors and victim witness advocates and state troopers are going to continue to attack the demand side.”

And with additional pressure from employers, sex buyers will think twice about abetting the selling of other human beings, said Healey.