MORE THAN 100 “JOHNS” CITED UNDER
NEW COUNTY ORDINANCE
Sunday, August 29, 2010— More than one hundred men looking to pay for sex have been cited under Cook County’s new Public Morals Ordinance, bringing in nearly $50,000 to support programs for abused women, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced Sunday.
Dart made the announcement Sunday, with Leyden Township Supervisor Bradley Stephens, as they unveiled two anti-soliciting billboards on Mannheim Road. The billboards are aimed at deterring “johns” – or men looking to pay for sex – from targeting the area.
Dart also announced results of recent drug stings in area motels, after concerned residents provided police with tips about illegal activity ruining their neighborhood.
The stings and public awareness campaign are part of a targeted effort by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Leyden Township Supervisor and Leyden Township Board to improve the quality of life for area residents. The Mannheim Road corridor, just south of O’Hare International Airport, has long been a destination site for prostitution, but has also seen an increase in gang and drug activity, as well as gun trafficking.
“This is just another example of Leyden Township and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office working together toward addressing prostitution and the elements it brings to Mannheim Road and the Leyden Township Community,” said Stephens, whose office paid for placement of the billboards.
The billboards - placed in both directions along the 2300 block of Mannheim Road - warn johns they face fines, and possibly arrest, by warning: “Chances are, the woman you are about to pick up works for us. Expect to pay $2,150” and “Dear John, if you're here to solicit sex, it could cost you $2,150. We're teaming up to bust you.”
Since Cook County’s Public Morals Ordinance was instituted in August 2009, the Sheriff’s Vice Unit has successfully cited dozens of men for soliciting undercover female officers. Since johns began facing steep fines, there have been no repeat offenders.
Of the 114 men cited, about 85 percent were seeking sex along the Mannheim Road corridor. In addition to billboards in that area, Dart plans to expand awareness by placing ads aimed at warning johns and ads offering help to women on public transportation spaces.
Those violating the Public Morals Ordinance face fines up to $1000, in addition to the county’s $500 administrative towing fee. Johns are also charged for all towing fees, set by individual tow yards, and daily storage fees, also set by tow yards. Violators may also be required to perform a minimum of 100 hours of community service and could face arrest.
As a result of those citations, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office has collected $48,538 from its part of those fees – all of which has gone to programs to support abused women through the sheriff’s nationally recognized Department of Women’s Justice Services.
Dart thanked the sponsors of the Public Morals Ordinance – Cook County Commissioners Larry Suffredin, Peter Silvestri, Joan Murphy, Earlean Collins, Liz Gorman and Gregg Goslin – for their support.
Sunday’s announcement comes after Dart announced last year’s “Operation Room Service” – which targeted the same area and saw 118 people arrested on gun, drug and prostitution-related charges. Dart said officers are committed to continuing the effort.
“Families in this area should know we're committed to doing all we can to help make their neighborhood safer,” Dart said. “We want the johns, drug dealers and those who allow that kind of activity to take place, to know we're committed to helping those families, as well."
In 2008, Dart hired three former prostitutes to go with vice officers on sting operations and use their personal experiences to conduct on-site intervention with prostitutes taken into custody. Those interactions have revealed that nearly all of the women taken into custody have lived lives filled with physical and sexual abuse. More than 200 women have received services or assistance through this initiative.
"None of them wanted to grow up and live this kind of life," Dart said. "Just as aggressively as our police are going after men who take advantage of these women, we want to let those women know we can help them get out of that lifestyle.”
Across Cook County, from August 2009 to present, Vice Unit officers have taken nearly 500 prostitutes into custody as a result of undercover stings. About 1/3 were made from Craigslist and similar sites, but the rest were from street corners and motels. Those investigations have led to human trafficking charges against three men in the last year alone.
In addition to the prostitution investigations, the Cook County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit – along with the Bellwood, Maywood and Broadview police departments – targeted thirteen individuals suspected on drug charges. As a result of the Leyden enforcement initiative, six were arrested on cocaine and heroin related offenses. That investigation is ongoing.
The fugitive unit has arrested 17 fugitives from the area since last month, as well.
Dart thanked those officers, Supervisor Stephens and the other Leyden Township and Cook County officials who share in his commitment to supporting safer neighborhoods.