Police Tricks

Shame and the sex trade.


If Chicago's sex workers are ever hurting for business, they can always turn to their police department. Last June the Chicago Police Department started compiling pictures, names, and partial addresses of the city's alleged johns and posting them online. The page reads like a client list, but it's apparently intended to "out" offenders and shame johns straight.

"If you solicit prostitutes," Chicago Mayor Richard Daley told his constituents in June, "people will know–your spouse, children, family, friends, and employers." Actually, if you're accused of soliciting, they'll know. All it takes is an arrest to join the Chicago

P.D.'s hall of shame, as more than 150 men already have discovered.

"I have a daughter and a wife," says one alleged john, picked up on June 6, who reports that he was propositioned by an undercover cop and wrongly charged. "It's as if I've been proven guilty before the case even goes to trial."

The department seems unperturbed by the potential to humiliate the innocent. "We give out mug shots all the time," says David Bayless, director of news affairs for the Chicago police. Bayless says the site was conceived out of "compassion" for prostitutes and a concern that men are soliciting women "in the full view of children."

Chicago is careful not to take credit for the idea. The Web-based "Operation John Be Gone" is in full swing in Akron, Ohio. Denver puts the mugs on community access television; Oakland puts convicted men on billboards. Such tactics work, however, only where there is potential for shame. In Peoria, Illinois, where the local police chief was considering posting pictures of the prostitutes themselves, authorities reconsidered when a local sex worker claimed the publicity would help her drum up men–a happy ending, either way, for her and her clients.?