In an effort to target sex buyers and reduce sex trafficking, a national coalition of law enforcement agencies conducted coordinated sting operations that led to more than 630 arrests, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.
The 15th National Johns Suppression Initiative (NJSI) operation ran from Jan. 7– Feb. 4 and included more than 30 law enforcement agencies across 16 states. In total, at least 638** sex buyers were arrested, 18 individuals face trafficking-related charges and 15 individuals were recovered and offered services. Law enforcement agencies in Cook County recorded 62 sex buyer arrests.
Additionally, in a national debut of such technology, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office partnered with the organization Seattle Against Slavery to roll out its AI bot, Project Intercept, in six municipalities during the operation. Project Intercept posts ads online with phone numbers that connect to bots posing as trafficking victims. The bots, which have names such as Ariel, Brook and Cari, fluidly interact via text message with individuals seeking to buy sex.
During the interaction, the bot eventually sets a price for the service. After the price is agreed to, the bot sends a deterrence message letting the sex buyer know that soliciting sex is a crime. The deterrence message also directs potential buyers to websites with more information on the harms of soliciting sex.
In addition to Cook County, the bot was activated in Boston, King County (Seattle), Los Angeles County and Phoenix. In total, 9,114 potential sex buyers were engaged, with more than 60 percent of sex buyers reaching the deterrence message. The bot was also activated in Minneapolis for a full 24 hours on the day of Super Bowl LII and recorded the most interaction of the active cities that day, showing demand for sex remains high in municipalities near the Super Bowl.
“This incredible technology helps to further the work done by law enforcement to bring attention to the exploitive nature of the sex trafficking industry and reduce the demand for purchased sex that serves to perpetuate a cycle of violence, mental illness and drug addiction for victims,” said Sheriff Dart.
Since Sheriff Dart began NJSI operations in 2011, Cook County Sheriff’s Police and participating agencies from across the country have arrested more than 8,200 sex buyers. Cumulative numbers from the 15th NJSI operation are as follows:
- 638 sex solicitation arrests (sex buyers)
- 18 sex trafficking arrests
- $755,490 in minimum possible fines
- 12 adult victims recovered
- 3 juveniles recovered
Agencies who participated in the 15th NJSI* include:
- Tuscaloosa Police Department – 47 sex buyers arrested
- Phoenix Police Department – 311 sex buyers deterred (includes texts, calls and webpage re-directs to inform sex buyers of the illegal sex industry’s harmful impact), 13 sex buyers arrested
- Mesa Police Department – 15 sex buyers arrested, 1 juvenile victim recovered by Glendale Police Department in Mesa.
- Little Rock Police Department – 6 sex buyers arrested
- Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department – 66 sex buyers arrested – including 4 felony charges for pandering and human trafficking, 1 juvenile victim recovered
- Oakland Police Department – 15 sex buyers arrested, 1 juvenile victim recovered
- Douglasville Police Department – 11 sex buyers arrested
- Cook County Sheriff’s Office – 57 sex buyers arrested; This includes joint operations with the Broadview Police Department (8 sex buyers arrested), Lansing Police Department (8 sex buyers arrested), Matteson Police Department (16 sex buyers arrested) and Orland Hills Police Department (7 sex buyers arrested)
- Arlington Heights Police Department – 5 sex buyers arrested
- Lake County Gang Task Force – 7 sex buyers arrested
- Rockford Police Department – 5 sex buyers arrested – operation also included the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI
- Howard County Police Department – 8 sex buyers arrested
- Boston Police Department – 6 sex buyers arrested, 3 pimp/sex trafficker arrested, 2 adult victims recovered
- Burlington Police Department – 5 sex buyers arrested
- Lincoln Police Department – 7 sex buyers arrested, 2 adult victims recovered
- New York
- New York Police Department – 62 sex buyers arrested
- Las Vegas Police Department – 23 sex buyers arrested
- Reno Police Department – 7 sex buyers arrested
- Cincinnati Police Department – 2 sex buyers arrested
- Portland Police Department – 31 sex buyers arrested
- Pittsburgh Police Department – 17 sex buyers arrested
- Upper Merion Township – 2 sex buyers arrested
- Montgomery County Detective Bureau – 3 sex buyers arrested
- Harris County Sheriff’s Office – 103 sex buyers arrested
- Houston Police Department – 64 sex buyers arrested, 1 adult victims recovered
- McLennan County Sheriff’s Office – 45 sex buyers arrested
- Brown County Sheriff’s Office – 4 sex buyers arrested
*Special thank you to Demand Abolition for their continued support of this national initiative.
**Number subject to change based on additional law enforcement agencies reporting