Hundreds Of Johns Arrested In Sex-Trafficking Sting That Culminated On Super Bowl Sunday

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Posted: Updated: Kim Bellware Become a fan 

As the New England Patriots were celebrating their thrilling Super Bowl XLIX win Sunday night, law enforcement around the nation were observing a more somber victory.

At least 570 would-be sex buyers (or johns) and 23 so-called sex traffickers — men taken into custody on charges of pimping, trafficking or promoting prostitution — were taken off the streets in the “National Day Of Johns Arrests” effort, Illinois’ Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced Monday.

The nationwide sex-trafficking sting operation, led by the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, ran from Jan. 15 to Feb. 1.

“Sex trafficking continues to destroy countless lives, and this broad national movement should send a strong message to prospective johns that their ‘hobby’ is much more than a ‘victimless’ crime,” Dart said in a statement. “It‟s particularly meaningful that this sting culminated on the day of the Super Bowl, which unfortunately has emerged as a prominent haven for sex trafficking.”

Experts like Bradley Myles, CEO of the anti-trafficking organization Polaris Project, have noted “there isn’t much evidence linking the Super Bowl to a major rise in trafficking,” while others point out that sex trafficking is a problem that persists not only during the Super Bowl, but year-round in communities of all sizes.

“We’re trying to raise awareness best we can,” Cook County Sheriff spokesman Ben Breit told The Huffington Post, explaining that the timing of the sting is largely symbolic. “Tying it to the Super Bowl is a helpful way to accomplish that.”

Dart’s office started the first such operation in 2011. The 2015 installment is the largest yet, comprising roughly 70 jurisdictions in 17 states, including Nevada, Arizona and Massachusetts.

On Monday, the Cook County Sheriff’s office said 54 women and 14 juveniles nationwide were “rescued” (taken into custody but connected with mental health, drug abuse, domestic abuse and other services).

Other highlights of the operation included Phoenix police recovering several women who said they had been trafficked in for the Super Bowl. Cincinnati police also arrested a pair of sex traffickers who had been using public computers at a local library to post prostitution ads online, according to a release. Las Vegas Police, meanwhile, took a man into custody who was facing federal human trafficking charges in Ohio; they also arrested a john on probation for rape.

The majority of the busts were made through “dates” arranged on the classified ad site, (and to a lesser extent, Craigslist). Dart said has for years been known as the leading online marketplace for prostitution, bringing in millions of dollars a month. Backpage’s exact revenue is unknown, but in 2013, classifieds analyst company AIM Group estimated Backpage’s take was $4.2 million in a single month. general counsel Liz McDougall told The Huffington Post via email:

We stand firm in our belief that a domestic website that combats child sex trafficking domestically in collaboration with law enforcement is far more beneficial to victims than driving the problem to underground and offshore sites. And we remain committed to effective measures of prevention and successful prosecution of this heinous crime.

Dart acknowledges his anti-trafficking and prostitution efforts have their critics — primarily people who think law enforcement are merely criminalizing a transaction that should have long ago been legalized. But whether the crime is called sex trafficking, pimping or prostitution, Dart says he sees “no distinction.”

“That’s always been a tough one for me,” Dart told The Huffington Post. “How is it any different when a man who gives a woman food or shelter, or coerces her with drugs or abuse, than when someone is brought in from outside the country.'”

And while Dart concedes there are some women who engage in sex work of their own choosing and without the involvement of a pimp, he says such instances are rare — and still unsafe.

He says the next step is to continue expanding the operation to include more law enforcement agencies in more states.

“Its all about building awareness, about staying on the problem,” Dart said. “There’s no silver bullet for this.”

This story has been updated to include comment from


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Officials Announce First-Ever County Task Force Against Human Trafficking

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Updated at 9:49 PM PST on Tuesday, Jan 20, 2015

Human trafficking and child prostitution are happening in our own backyard. But for the first time in San Diego’s history, a brand new team has been created with a dedicated group of crime fighters trying to stop it. NBC 7’s Steven Luke has the details. (Published Tuesday, Jan 20, 2015)

At a news conference at the Hall of Justice, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Domanis introduced The San Diego Violent Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation, a task force that will partner with 14 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The task force will have more than two dozen investigators dedicated solely to making sure suspects are prosecuted to the fullest extent and to help the victims.

“It’s time our entire community wake up on this particular issue and help law enforcement by recognizing the signs of human trafficking and reporting it,” said Dumanis.

While many of the agencies have been working to fight the increase in human trafficking on their own, the task force will unite them and dedicate officers specifically to tackling the issue.

“In many cases these law enforcement officers were going after the sex trafficking and sex trade on their own time,” said San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob.

The city has been identified in the past by the FBI as one of several human trafficking hubs in California and the nation.

The news comes after a cross-country law enforcement crackdown in December targeted a sex-trafficking organization that involved about 100 young women and girls, many of whom were recruited from San Diego County middle and high schools.

About 50 percent of trafficking cases handled by the district attorney involve gangs, Dumanis said. Gangs lure teenagers into a life of prostitution, she said, as a part of their business now.

The number of human trafficking cases convicted and prosecuted in San Diego County has more than tripled over the past four years, Dumanis said.

According to the DA’s office, under the state’s sex trafficking statutes, a total of 40 human trafficking cases were prosecuted in San Diego in 2012 – a big jump from nine cases prosecuted by the DA’s office in 2009.

Dumanis said the task force needs the public’s help to report possible cases.

“And if you think it isn’t happening in our neighborhoods in San Diego County, think again,” Dumanis said.

In addition to the district attorney’s office, the San Diego County Supervisor, San Diego County Sheriff, San Diego Police Chief, FBI officials, ICE Homeland Security Investigations officials, ICE/Enforcement & Removal Operations officials, La Mesa police, California Highway Patrol Border officials and officials from the California Department of Justice will participate in the task force.

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The growing connection between gangs and sex trafficking in San Diego

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Studying gang, prostitution connection

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⌂ Local Topics Government & Politics Gangs, sex trade a growing problem

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