Police arrest more than 150 men in sex trafficking sting

By  Chicago Tribune

A nationwide summer sex trafficking sting enlisting the help of police departments in Cook and Lake counties has led to the arrests of more than 150 local men looking to pay for sex, one of whom was caught while his 2-year-old daughter was in the car, authorities said.

As one of 39 law enforcement agencies in 18 states joining in the recent "National Johns Suppression Initiative" campaign, a crackdown on the demand for purchased sex, officials with the Arlington Heights Police Department said this week that their efforts led to the arrest of 11 men during a two-day sting operation at a local motel on west Algonquin Road.

"We appreciate the motel's efforts in working with us, and they wanted to help us, as they don't condone this type of activity at their business," Arlington Heights Deputy Chief Miguel Hernandez said.

The department's two day sting, which took place July 24 and Aug. 14, involved undercover female police officers posing as adult women who had placed online ads selling sex, primarily on the website Backpage.com, Arlington Heights police Cmdr. Nathan Hayes said.

All of the men arrested were charged with solicitation of a sexual act, Hayes said, adding that one of those arrested was also charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

In addition to the bond that was posted on their respective charges, each offender also had their vehicle towed, and a $1,000 impoundment fee was levied in accordance with state statute, Hayes said.

Nationwide, law enforcement agencies conducting the summer sting operations made 1,032 arrests, which included 961 would-be sex buyers and 71 pimps or traffickers, Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart said in a statement.

Related article: (How to) Avoid Backpage Prostitution Stings (for Dummies)

First launched by Dart in 2011 to highlight the role of sex solicitors as perpetrators in what law enforcement officials describe as a "violent and exploitative industry," the Cook County sheriff's office-led coalition targets the "online evolution" of the sex trade, officials said.

For example, in the recent summer sting, officials said 41 percent of the arrests were connected with online ads for prostitution, with 98 percent of the online activity happening on Backpage.com, officials said.

"This broad national movement should send a strong message to prospective johns that sex trafficking simply is not a victimless crime," Dart said. "These women and girls have been brutalized and exploited, and the most effective way to deter these heinous crimes is to target the demand."

While 150 of the recent sting arrests were made by the Cook County sheriff's office from June 1 through Aug. 30, in addition to the 11 arrests made by Arlington Heights police, the initiative also included 14 arrests made by the Lake County sheriff's office and five arrests by the Aurora Police Department.

Related article: Nearly 600 johns arrested in nationwide sting operation involving backpage.com

Seven arrests were also made by the Matteson Police Department, which partnered with the Cook County sheriff's office, police said.

Arlington Heights police said the department also plans to place online ads on the Backpage website, warning potential sex solicitors that police are committed to going after perpetrators of these crimes.

"This is an ongoing initiative, and we won't wait until next summer to do this again," said Hayes. "Our goal is to stop it."

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