National sex trafficking sting yields nearly 500 arrests - KMSP-TV

National sex trafficking sting yields nearly 500 arrests

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Tom Dart Tom Dart
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A sting operation that's part of a national crackdown on prostitution snared nearly 500 men soliciting sex from prostitutes in Cook County.

The 18-day operation was led by Sheriff Tom Dart and law enforcement in 14 states. The operation punished the johns and pimps, and treated the women as victims.

A girl walking alone on the side of the road could be a victim of sex trafficking, or she could be an undercover officer. Cook County Sheriff's Police decided to arrest johns the old fashioned way -- by posing as prostitutes.

However, there's a new approach on arrests: johns get locked up and prostitutes get intervention.

“I know what pain is, what it feels to be in prison, under pimp control to want to get out and you don't know how. I try to be there to give them the info that I got,” said Cook County Peer Specialist Brenda Myers-Powell.

Myers-Powell started selling her body when she was 14. She's been shot, stabbed and stuffed in car trunks.

But she found her way out of the violence and now works for the sheriff counselling prostitutes, and urging them to leave the life of exploitation.

“There's gonna be a day where he's gonna beat you and you want to find a way out, that's when you call me,” Myers-Powell said.

Cook County officers arrested 14 sex traffickers or pimps, and 496 johns over the 18 day operation. Sheriff Tom Dart said Cook County will never fully get rid of prostitution, but that it's become a difficult place for men who want to purchase sex.

“The majority are married men, college degrees, these are folks who have things to lose. We try to send the message we fine you and take your car, and you better think about the next time you pull up it could be us,” Dart said.

Part of the sting was conducted on the West Side, Roosevelt and Cicero; an area known for prostitution. The officers know that word gets out, though, and the streets are labeled hot. The johns disappear, but only temporarily.

However, even that is considered a success.

Since 2011, the "National Day of Johns Arrests" has grown from eight law enforcement agencies to 59.

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