Sex Work

'National Johns Suppression Initiative' Nets Nearly 1,000 Arrests for Attempted Sex

Only a few million arrests to go and surely we'll stamp out this prostitution fad, by golly...

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Tony Fischer Photography/Flickr

Every summer, police and prosecutors from around the country come together under the helpful tutelage of Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Tom Dart to saddle men with criminal records for attempted sex. This year, the good Sheriff's "National Johns Suppression Initiative" netted 961 "sex buyers" across 18 states. Dart described it as a blow against human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and children. 

Granted, the months-long effort of 39 law-enforcement units turned up fewer than 75 individuals suspected of anything tangentially related to sex trafficking (including "pimping, pandering or "promoting prostitution"). But police were able to arrest nearly 1,000 men who indicated they might like to pay adult women for sex, along with an untold number of sex workers themselves. Tomato, tomahto…

"This broad national movement should send a strong message to prospective johns that sex trafficking simply is not a victimless crime," said Dart, who has also been leading a crusade against the web-advertising site Backpage.com.

NBC Las Vegas described the stings as highlighting "the role of sex solicitors as perpetrators to this violent and exploitative industry." Newport News Police Detective Travis Gault described the strategy as "basically the prostitutes will disappear because you've gotten rid of anybody that wants it."

This summer's Johns Initiative will net law enforcement a minimum of $189,170 in fines for the solicitation arrests alone. Cook County arrested the most sex solicitors—150—but Houston and Harris County, Texas, were close, with 143 and 107 "john" arrests respectively. 

Dart's initiative, formerly known as the "National Day of John Arrests," has been gaining ground since its 2011 launch—last summer, only 500 prostitution clients were arrested. It's basically a vice-squad operation writ large over the entire nation and imbued with overstated moral urgency.

Over the four-year period, police stings—assisted by various federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI—have led to more than 4,000 arrests, mainly for crimes such as (consensual) prostitution or solicitation. Sometimes you see drug, loitering, or other charges thrown in there. Every so often, someone might even get arrested for sex trafficking. 

"Twice as many johns were rounded up as last year in the 12-day effort," Pittsburgh police bragged this week. The department arrested 61 men for solicitation, two men for drug charges, and nine women for prostitution as part of the 2015 Johns Suppression Initiative. "God only knows how many children we save," Detective Joseph Ryczaj told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  

There haven't been a lot of details released yet about this year's stings. Dart claims they uncovered 308 sex-trafficking victims, including 258 adults and 50 minors. But it's hard to say what this really means, since all minors engaged in sex work are labeled de facto victims by police, even when they're working 100 percent alone and of their own free will. And many police departments have started classifying sex workers of any age as trafficking victims—at least for public-relations purposes. After the press releases come out, however, these adult and teen sex workers are all-too-often arrested if they refuse to cooperate with cops, and sometimes even if they do.  

Pittsburgh's Detective Ryczaj said arresting sex workers is "the kindest thing you can do for them," because he thinks they're mostly homeless, drug addicts, or mentally ill. A criminal conviction "brings them into the system and provides them with services they may not have had access to," said Ryczaj. Chris Fischer, retired Dayton, Ohio, police sergeant, concurred: "When the johns pay for money for the sex act, all that's doing is going to our drug dealers." Dayton's efforts to thwart human trafficking involved the arrest of myriad "hookers," as local news described them, along with men soliciting sex. Two of the arrested individuals had their children taken into state custody. Others were arrested during the stings for "drug paraphernalia."

That's not to say that no real victims were found. Las Vegas police mention two women from California who were beaten and forced into prostitution, and one 16-year-old from Arizona who was threatened into selling sex. It's great they were able to find and hopefully help these victims. But the first incident was uncovered by a 911 call and another by patrol officers in a "known prostitution area." A third "potential human trafficking" incident was uncovered when neighbors saw a man smashing in the windows of a woman's car. None of these arrests had anything to do with the department's simultaneous john stings and prostitution busts.

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  1. That Dart guy must have something really embarrassing in his closet. With all this national attention, it’s not long before it’s out.

    1. I always assume the more passionate someone is about this kind of thing, the bigger the skeletons in their own closet.

      Just like I’m willing to bet someone important was about to be outed as a Rentboy customer, which brought upon the raid… I’m willing to bet Dart has visited more than one sex worker advertising on Backpage.

      1. I’m willing to bet someone important was about to be outed as a Rentboy customer

        President Obama maybe? There’s been rumors for years that he’s on the down low.

      2. IT WAS JUST RESEARCH GUYS

      3. Yeah, but he doesn’t pay, so it doesn’t count as sex trafficking.

        1. “You didn’t blow that.”

  2. “This broad national movement should send a strong message to prospective johns that sex trafficking simply is not a victimless crime,” said Dart, who has also been leading a crusade against the web-advertising site Backpage.com.

    Very true. You have created a thousand new victims yourself.

    1. Dart is the pimp at Cook County jail.

  3. “God only knows how many children we save,” Detective Joseph Ryczaj told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    “Because we sure as hell don’t, amiright fellas?!”

    1. Well, they feeeeel like they’re saving children. And that’s what counts, right?

      Same reason we need to keep drugs illegal.

    2. “God only knows how many children we save,”

      I honestly can’t even believe he actually said that.

      It almost like something you’d see in an Onion article

  4. Not hearing much about the case of the Fox Lake, IL officer found dead. I’m kinda suspecting it might be a suicide. Y’all can all call me a jerk if I’m wrong.

    1. I’m going to go ahead and get that out of the way in case I’m not here later. Jerk.

    2. Whether you’re right or wrong, you’re still a jerk.

  5. If all these fucking skanks are having babies everywhere, it’s going to really fuck up inheritances. My estates in Mercia as well as my Ducal title are already pledged to my trueborn son, but I fear that he shall find no peace as my many bastards proclaim themselves pretenders to my lands, and will attract the shiftless and desperate to their standards as they constantly harass my son.

    And so it is just and meet that all prostitutes be killed upon being apprehended in the act.

    1. And so it is just and meet that all prostitutes be killed upon being apprehended in the act.

      …and their children killed if they have any, on the chance that they may turn out to be one of your bastard offspring.

    2. He just needs to learn how to ‘thin the herd’. It’ll prepare him for the harsh realities of maintaining power.

    3. Look here, what’s more important, your son or your realm? If you throw all your offspring into a battle royale, the strongest will prevail and be a mighty leader! See how far this is carrying the Ottomans? Why they even seized Constantiople, man! A feat of arms we should aim to replicate!

  6. “God only knows how many children we save,” Detective Joseph Ryczaj told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    Ironically, there’s probably a lot of truth to that statement. it’s probably impossible to know how many children were “saved”. I suspect it was a very small number. Probably very close to 0, and almost certainly in the single digits.

    1. Do you think they actuallt believe that or it’s just cynical bloviating.

      1. Probably true believer, but who knows?

    2. “God knows how many children we’ve saved from death by falling out of chairs.”
      -leader of movement for outlawing of the sale and purchase of chairs. Probably with more of a right to say with than these people too.

  7. Look, can we just get rid of children? Seriously, stick them in a bubble wrapped rooms where no harm can come of them in a camp somewhere and outlaw them from now on. I’m sick and tired of them being used as a justification for everything. Stop reproducing, assholes. At least then rules makers would have to use new arguments.

    1. bubble wrapped rooms where no harm can come of them

      I like your Lewis Carroll-esque death humor here. Hermetically seal them in a room and they can’t be harmed because they’re dead!

      Stop reproducing, assholes

      This was my desktop wallpaper on my college computer. It was surprisingly polarizing.

  8. “Twice as many johns were rounded up as last year in the 12-day effort,” Pittsburgh police bragged this week.

    This year they started included yinzers who attempt to pay for sex with lobster dinners.

  9. I’m going to do a quick side by side here.

    This:

    “the role of sex solicitors as perpetrators to this violent and exploitative industry.”

    and this:

    “This summer’s Johns Initiative will net law enforcement a minimum of $189,170 in fines for the solicitation arrests alone”

  10. When I used to do Bachelor Parties, there were several sites that you could get reviews and information around er, dancers, in the Vegas area. None of them are available any more after 3 years. All have been raided by the FBI and shut down.

    So sites that allowed escorts and johns to select for the best behavior are gone and instead we are back to scammers, deadbeats and pimps. Way to go, government.

  11. Sure, make it even more difficult for a brother to get a hanskie out there.

    1. Much like every person who wants to willingly sell their body, brown people just do not know what is good for them.

      1. Also like prostitutes and womyn, brown people have no agency?

    2. the larger point is that many POC have asked for at least a TW before being confronted w/these images

      This is racist, right? The implication seems to be that only non-white people are repulsed by the picture of a dead baby. Why would a black guy in Alabama feel any stronger about the picture than a white guy in Toronto?

      God damn, “violence on bodies of color.” Fuck off, idiots.

      1. Charles Rangle admitted the only time he felt badly during his military experience was when he saw dead Blacks. He has no empathy for any other group and is unable to imagine they might suffer as much as those in his ‘tribe.’ I find this attitude incomprehensible, and don’t understand how anyone can be like that.

        1. Being the military is supposed to be trained killers, I don’t understand how an effective military can NOT be like that.

          But that is the reason to keep the military small and not use it so much.

    3. Syrians aren’t brown.

      1. Sure they are. Until they move to the US and become well-paid doctors who live in nice neighborhoods and have a good relationship with the rest of the community. Then they’re privileged white scum. But as long as they’re useful as news fodder, sure they’re brown!

    4. To recap: the brown father of a dead brown boy is calling upon the media to share the photos of his kid, and white westerners are…

      Um, not to disrupt the underlying narrative, but that little dead kid looked kinda white. Maybe it was all that hard living that caught up with him? Don’t know, but he wasn’t exactly Wesley Snipes. Not even Cheech nor Chong for that matter.

      And has anyone seen a picture of Bashar Assad? Give that tool a shave and a cheap suit: Voila, cracker corporate middle-management. Nothing ‘brown’ about the guy. Perhaps there is privileged Syrian-honky elite among mud-people masses? But if that’s the case, why’s the cracker-tot lying on the beach?

      Prog mind is a strange yet drab place – a Soviet take on Alice in Wonderland.

  12. “basically the prostitutes will disappear because you’ve gotten rid of anybody that wants it.”

    I’m pretty sure when the population of the planet is reduced to two, one of them is going to be a prostitute. If you plan on getting rid of people willing to pay for sex a thousand people at a time you’re going to need to work a lot faster.

    1. it’s as if he’s never heard of the expression, “the worlds oldest profession”…i wonder how it got that name?

  13. Surprised more states haven’t forced convicted Johns onto Sex Offender registries. Last count, six states already do but shocked it’s not more. After all, a guy willing to pay for sex is every bit as dangerous as a rapist or child molester. If it saves even one life, it’s worth it!

    1. Always wondered how, by the same logic, a guy willing to pay for a massage isn’t just committing sexual assault by making ‘marginalized women with no choices but to tough gross men’s bodies’ touch them. Or why someone who buys used furniture on craigslist isn’t basically the same as a guy who steals used furniture via craigslist; after all, the former is merely exploiting the presumed poverty of the furniture seller, right?

      I still can’t believe people sincerely believe any of this, it can only be a front. Most of the true believers seem to be dumb well-to do white ugly prudes who loathe the idea of a guy getting laid and not paying for it with a house and a lifetime of alimony. Everyone else has to smell the bullshit even before it comes out of their mouths.

  14. Look, can we just get rid of children? Seriously, stick them in a bubble wrapped rooms where no harm can come of them in a camp somewhere and outlaw them from now on. I’m sick and tired of them being used as a justification for everything. Stop reproducing, assholes. At least then rules makers would have to use new arguments.

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