Operation stings johns

By Gregory Cappis

A cross-country police sting operation led to hundreds of arrests during Columbus Day weekend, according to reports.

Cook County and seven other police agencies arrested a total of 223 people involved in prostitution. Two hundred and sixteen johns, people attempting to pay for sex, were the focus of the operation. Two pimps were arrested, and others were arrested on drug charges. Prostitutes were not arrested.

The goal of the operation is to end illegal sex by eliminating the demand for the trade. Demand Abolition, an organization working toward social change, provided a grant for the stings. Part of the money was also used by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to make an educational DVD and produce 4,000 copies to be distributed to other agencies, according to an employee of Demand Abolition.

The DVD is shown to first-time offenders who choose to pay a fine and partake in an educational program instead of being prosecuted.

“We believe that buyers of sex should be educated on the exploitation and violence inherent in the sex trade, and should have the opportunity to better understand the harmful consequences of purchasing sex, not only to themselves but to the individuals they’re buying and to the community at large,” said Lina Nealon, director of Demand Abolition.

The educational program is modeled after the “First Offender Prostitution Program,” which originated in San Francisco. According to a study by the U.S. Justice Department, men who partake in the program are 40 percent less likely to attempt to purchase sex again.

The program explains to the johns the extreme measures the prostitutes are put through. As reported by The Chronicle on Sept. 26, many of these girls are victims of sex trafficking and are forced to perform these acts against their will. This is why none of the prostitutes were arrested.

In suburban Elgin, six men were arrested on Oct. 7, the first day of the sting operation. Police could not participate in the sting for the remainder of the weekend because their attention was shifted to the murder of a five-year-old boy.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Department has not yet released the numbers for the sting, but said most arrests were made on the street or at hotels.

According to a Cook County Sheriff’s press release, this pilot operation is only the first step. There will be more sting operations that focus on arresting johns instead of the prostitutes who tend to be the true victims of the violent crime of sex or human trafficking.

Nealon noted that the johns need to be arrested in order to be educated about the violence surrounding the sex trade.

“We hope this growing recognition and action by police around the nation will help the general public understand that prostitution is not a victimless crime and that buyers of sex are perpetuating an industry that is inherently violent,” she said.

Tom Dart, Cook County sheriff, sent a warning to men looking to pay for sex.

“We will catch you, and you are going to face serious consequences,” Dart said. “We are not going away.”