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Illinois Sheriff Works to Combat the Sex Trade

A month-long string of sting operations, organized by the National Johns Suppression Initiative, has resulted in the arrest of 1,000 people, who were trying to sell or buy sex across the US.

A pastor and a state trooper were among those arrested.

The initiative’s purpose is to reduce sex trafficking in the United States, and their focuses are in areas with particularly high rates of abuse. Authorities have shut down three Illinois brothels and arrested a convicted child molester in Seattle.

The leader of the operation, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart of Cook County, Illinois, said that 37 law enforcement agencies worked across 17 states to combat the country’s vast network of sex traffickers. Eighty-one adult and juvenile victims were rescued, and at least 1,020 sex buyers arrested.

Fifteen people are facing charges related to sex-trafficking, the Sheriff said. On August 3rd, he announced that his office began creating a public database to list sex buyers that were caught two or more times.

Harris County, Texas, and Seattle are the areas where police made the most arrests, with 170 in Texas and 160 in Seattle.

Many of these arrests could have been prevented. In Arizona, officials said that 400 people decided not to buy sex after receiving texts, calls or Web browser redirects that alerted them to the effects of the sex-trafficking industry.

The National Johns Suppression Initiative has led to the arrest of about 8,000 sex buyers since 2011, but the practice of arresting sex buyers is a hotly debated subject.

Organizations like Amnesty International advocate for the decriminalization of all aspects of sex work, citing the way that sex workers are often abused by law enforcement and the underlying reasons why buyers decide to do so.

In an article for Time, Charlotte Alter took part in Sheriff Dart’s sex stings to experience how they were.

“We thought it would be like an adrenaline-pumping episode of Law & Order SVU,” she said, “but we were wrong.”

“Sex stings aren’t glamorous – they’re grim windows into the loneliness and desperation that motivates some men to grasp at the sexual cornucopia they think they are owed. Watching guys get caught is like watching that fantasy get destroyed over and over,” she announced.

On paper, a high number of sex arrests sounds good. In person, however, it looks much different.

“The men are all different races and ages, from all walks of life – the only thing they have in common is shock,” Alter writes. “Some sit motionless with their hands over their eyes. One, a man so wide cops needed two pairs of handcuffs to arrest him, sat on the bedspread shaking his head slowly. Another expressed incredulity at his arrest, arguing that cops should be going after rapists and child molesters instead. All of them were slapped with a citation and a fine for buying sex on Sheriff Tom Dart’s turf.”

While initiatives like Dart’s continue to catch a growing number of subjects, the sex-trade continues to find ways to adapt in the age of technology.

Featured Image by BMN Network on Flickr
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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