Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Chicagoland Police Used FBI Sex Trafficking Sting to Arrest Adult Women

Yesterday we told you that the FBI conducted a sting to arrest 150 pimps nationwide and rescue more than 100 children from sex trafficking. Today, we have some very bad news.

Two of the children were from Illinois, and one pimp was arrested in our state. Apparently, law enforcement in several cities also used this as an opportunity to arrest and charge adult women in Illinois with prostitution. Locally, Daily Herald reports that at least 14 local women (some as young as 21) in Naperville, Aurora, Elgin, Arlington Heights and Elk Grove were charged with prostitution as part of the sting. There was no mention from the FBI or Daily Herald about any johns (buyers) being arrested.

The FBI’s main message yesterday to the media was clear: children AND adults are being exploited in the sex trade. In a press release, Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division said: “This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere and that the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable.”

It is abhorrent that police used this sting as a reason to arrest women in prostitution.  Research shows that the majority of women in prostitution were recruited as minors, so it’s likely that is the case for some of these women. The difference between being treated as a “child victim” and a criminal appears to be merely a difference of three or four years of age. If the intention of the FBI was to take down pimps and traffickers and stop exploitation, why did Chicagoland police feel empowered to arrest prostituted adults? Did local police even screen these adults for human trafficking?

Update 8/2/2013:  In a quick scan of arrest info released by law enforcement in three cities, 98 of the 138 arrests were of prostituted people. In Las Vegas, media reported that 41 people in prostitution were arrested there.

We must demand more from law enforcement. Over and over again, we see police blotters where women are arrested and johns and pimps go unmentioned. This is another glaring example of police using an easy, ingrained, and highly ineffective practice: arresting and re-arresting people in prostitution. People who buy sex in the suburbs will take great comfort in the fact that these women were arrested and that buyers were ignored. It sends a message to buyers that they are safe, immune from prosecution, and can continue doing what they do—buying sex in our community and creating the demand for more people in prostitution.

During the FBI press conference, Hosko said, “We do care, and our goal is to get these young girls into some form of treatment and help them reshape their lives and reclaim their innocence to the extent they can.” CAASE advocates that services and support should extend to anyone who has been exploited in the sex trade, including adults. It’s time for police to stop punishing the wrong people, start addressing demand, and recognize that sex traffickers also target and exploit adults.

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