Sex Work

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart Creating National Database of Sex Buyers

"We are well on our way to developing...new ways to change their behavior."

|

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec painting, via Joseph Martin/Newscom

Cook County's Tom Dart, the prostitution-obsessed sheriff who launched a national month of police playing sex workers to arrest "johns" and unconstitutionally threatened Visa and Mastercard for doing business with the ad-site Backpage, has found a new way to threaten people's privacy, screw over sex workers, and grow the police state. The latest Dart-led initiative involves creating a national database of prostitution customers, using solicitation-arrest data submitted by cops through a phone app.

Demand Abolition—a Massachusetts-based advocacy group that recently gave Boston Police $30,000 to look into new strategies to target prostitution customers—reported on Sheriff Dart's new plot in a late-August post crowing that "1,300 sex buyers—a record—were arrested across 18 states in just one month" of Dart's National John Suppression Initiative. Now, the sheriff is using data from that sting to start a national database of people arrested for soliciting prostitution. You know, for research purposes.

"We are well on our way to developing a stronger, more nuanced understanding of who buyers are—information that can be used to find new ways to change their behavior," Demand Abolition chirps.

This year's sex stings led to an "unprecedented level of buyer data collected, and shared, by this year's arresting officers," notes Demand Abolition. This is thanks to a new app that streamlines the logging of prostitution arrest information.

The app was developed at a January "social justice hackathon", in which a hundred or so techies were presided over by a team of anti-prostitution zealots from across the country—including Dart, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Seattle-area prosecutor Val Richey (for more on Richey's work, see my recent series of stories on Seattle prostitution busts). The presumably well-intentioned developers and data scientists were told their work would help put an end to human trafficking, but the tools they developed are designed for police to target and track adults engaging in consensual prostitution.

The January hackathon, funded by Thomson Reuters' Data Innovation Lab, gave birth to what Demand Abolition is calling an "arrest app," which "allows officers to easily log arrest info into a national database, which Dart's team can then use to identify trends in buyer demographics." During the last John Suppression Initiative, cops logged info from 80 percent of all arrests into the database.

Keeping the personal info of people arrested for prostitution-related charges in one handy national database might help with whatever new Vice-Squad-on-Steroids agenda that Dart is designing. But it's obviously worrisome from a privacy perspective. Keeping all that sensitive information in one place would seem to make it a ripe target for hackers, but nowhere do Demand Abolition or Dart even mention cybersecurity.

It's also important to note that the people being logged in the database have merely been arrested for, not convicted of, any crimes. Yet the arrest app isn't concerned with case outcomes. If police arrest someone and the charges are later dropped or beat, that person will still be counted in Dart's database as having been picked up in a sex sting.

I reached out to the Cook County Sheriff's Office to get more details about the app and database—what security measures are in place, whether the info collected is subject to public-records requests, etc.—and will update if I hear back.

Update: Cook County Sheriff's Office Press Secretary Sophia Ansari said no individual names or case numbers will be entered into the database. "Demographic information entered includes age range, race, marital status and education level–but that information is never connected to an individual or a number that could be connected to an individual," Ansari said in an email. Nor does the database reflect what ultimately happens with cases. It's meant to simply track info on solicitation arrests and not any subsequent outcomes of those cases.

Advertisement

NEXT: The Fate of Baishizhou

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. There is only one salient comment on this issue, and it was penned by George Carlin.

    Selling is legal.

    Fucking is legal.

    Why isn’t selling fucking legal?

    1. Politicians hate competition.

    2. Selling isn’t legal. I mean, it can be legally excused, for a price, both in terms of money and subjecting yourself to the whims of tyrannical asshats, but you’ll still be demonized for the wickedness of earning an honest living rather than feeding off of the public regardless.

  2. Remember “Lust for Paint”, the life of Tulane van Dreck?

  3. I’m sure that will never be abused.

    1. It would be good to get the sheriff and any other morality cops put in the database ASAP…

  4. “We are well on our way to developing a stronger, more nuanced understanding of who buyers are?information that can be used to find new ways to change their behavior,” Demand Abolition chirps.

    World’s oldest profession? Pfft. No match for a dedicated non-profit. They gots this, yo.

  5. It’s also important to note that the people being logged in the database have merely been arrested for, not convicted of, any crimes.

    Presumption of innocence? How quaint!

    1. Next up: adding people who visit backpage.com and similar sites.

    2. Any hackers out there with a few spare minutes to load the database roster with the names of every LOE in the country?

      1. I’m exceedingly curious as to the general function of the ‘app’ to begin with. Is it available through an/the app-store are there commercial vendors with app stores catering strictly to LEOs or is this one of those situations where the definition of ‘app’ is ‘software that was written’?

        I would imagine entrepreneurial pornographers might be chomping at the bit to file an FOIA for the data and/or otherwise hijack the app for ad space.

  6. So, a list of husbands?

    1. Stop taunting Eddie!

      1. Just to sum up – there’s powerful *practical* reasons for getting rid of the criminal statutes against adult prosecution, but the idea that libertarian philosophy automatically *demands* repeal because “consenting adults” omits the existence of some key adults whose consent is not always obtained.

        It’s actually a fairly simply point, and some people here actually respond to it, but others simply think responding is too hard, so they respond to some straw man instead.

        1. against adult *prostitution*

        2. You’ve finally convinced me.

  7. What, ho! a sail!

    Over-accessorized, but otherwise I think he looks lovely.

    1. Would if she shaved her pits.

    2. Minimalistic68 ? 2 hours ago
      Please stop humoring these deviants. I don’t care if he is conservative….ha! What a joke. God is not amused.

      1. Every day we stray further from His light.

        1. Obama’s leaving office soon anyway, I don’t think He’ll be put out much.

  8. I can’t wait to see what skeletons fall out of Tom Dart’s closet. Nobody is this gung-ho without covering for something of their own.

    1. Exactly. It’s like the Congresscritters who would decry homo activity and then get caught smoking a dick. I look forward to the reveal.

      1. yep, the louder someone screams against something, the bigger the skeleton in her own closet

        1. Police abuse? Forfeiture laws?

    2. You think, with a name like Dart, maybe he’s just got a really small prick?

      1. But dart…means well.

  9. It’s funny but this could really be the thing that makes Prostitution legal because once it gets out that everyone knows dozens of people, all of whom they know to be good people who have engaged the services of a prostitute their opinion of the institution is going to change from it being a bad thing to it being not such a big deal

    1. Nope. This is driven by soccer moms, like Madd.

      You don’t need a repairman to know which way the ratchet turns.

      1. Soccer moms and puritans. Basically, the same group that gave us alcohol prohibition.

      2. The top 12 people on the MADD org chart are men.

        1. You’re transphobic for pointing that out.

    2. That’s charmingly optimistic. I think it’s far more likely this will develop into a national database of people who have openly criticized Her Highness Hillary, or expressed other non-PC views. Because wrong think = misogyny/hate crimes, of course.

      1. It’ll become her list of the people to “take camping with Herself”, in the northern reaches of Alaska, in the 10+ months of winter……..

  10. Excellent photo and alt text. Syphilis took all the greats.

  11. …the prostitution-obsessed sheriff…

    Show me a prostitution-obsessed sheriff, and I’ll show you a guy with a dead hooker in his closet.

    I’m not saying, but I’m just saying…

    1. Call girl.

      1. Escort

      2. When they’re dead, they all become just hookers.

      3. When they’re dead, they’re just….

        1. Pining for the fjords?

  12. Well, it’s not like there’s any other crimes in cook County to worry about.

  13. It’s also important to note that the people being logged in the database have merely been arrested for, not convicted of, any crimes.

    I hope everyone involved gets the everloving fuck sued out of them.

    1. Hahaha! People can sue, and they will lose.

    2. You are considered guilty in the eyes of the government, even if you are proven innocent in court. Court doesn’t actually prove you’re innocent. It only proves that your attorney was better than the government’s attorney. But it doesn’t prove innocence. No, you’re still guilty.

      1. Hell. You don’t even have to have been charged. Simply being suspected is still considered to be guilty.

    3. I hope everyone involved gets the everloving fuck sued out of them.

      Are you kidding? This is the Divorce Attorney Assn.’s wet dream WRT “everloving fucks”!

  14. “We are well on our way to developing … new ways to change their behavior.”

    I think changing the behavior of the people who have murdered 545 of each other so far this year would be a better project for the local Sheriff.

    1. No way CPD lets someone else on their turf.

  15. “Demand Abolition” is the most fucked-up name ever. Seriously?

    Also, wasn’t Sheriff Dart just smacked down hard by the courts for his obsession with Backpage? What happened with that.

  16. The thing to remember with the whole sex trafficking panic is that it won’t stop with prostitution. Everything that can be said about the horrible life of a hooker can equally be said about the life of a porn actress. When they are finished with categorizing all prostitution as “sex trafficking”, it is just a matter of time before they move on to calling pornography sex trafficking and all those who pay for it or possess it guilty of supporting sex trafficking.

    The precedent to do this is already there with child porn laws. Child pornography is considered de facto exploitative such that even possessing it much less buying or making it is considered to be supporting it and just as much of a crime as creating it. Once you buy into the idea that pornography is a form of “sex trafficking”, and that is coming you watch, it is a very easy leap to considering anyone who so much as possess pornography to be guilty of supporting the dreaded “sex trafficking”.

    This panic is very dangerous and not just because of the injustice and stupidity it is creating over prostitution.

    1. Sadly, I know people who would support this.

      1. So do I. And the really sad part is that if you take what they are saying about prostitution and sex trafficking to its logical conclusion, you end up advocating criminalizing the possession and purchase of porn because it supports sex trafficking. That is how this shit starts. They pick an easy target and go after it using a logic that extends much beyond that so that later it can be extended way beyond anything that was contemplated at the beginning.

        1. Manly men don’t need it, and women should consider it to be cheating. Mentally anyway. So of course it should be banned. If you disagree and you are a man, then you’re not a manly man so you don’t matter. If you disagree and you’re a woman, then you condone cheating so you don’t matter. Only the opinions of people who matter matter.

    2. I would hypothesize that when most sexual taboos have collapsed, then many people will compensate by freaking out over enforcing whatever taboos remain.

      1. I think that is likely a very good hypothesis.

      2. No, they’ll be worse. They’ll freak out about things that aren’t taboos and demand that they should be.

        See: Prohibition

  17. There goes one of the perks of being a cop:
    http://www.startribune.com/min…..322463341/

    1. “It’s a contradiction of the message that you are here to serve and protect.”

      Empty messages are empty.

    2. “Minneapolis police officials said Thursday that they’re ending the practice of sending undercover officers to investigate suspected prostitution in massage parlors after three male officers had sexual contact with the female suspects”

      There was a news scroll yesterday saying that Chicago plans to hire another 500 police officers. Maybe the ones in Minneapolis will transfer to the Windy City

      1. “Chicago will hire 500 more police officers, has no money to pay them.”

  18. The app was developed at a January “social justice hackathon”

    Oh my. SJWs are arming themselves with tech.

    1. You make it sound like the tech/hackathon and SJWs are mutually exclusive. A handful of the morons working on the app look like they should be on the list or might eventually find themselves on it.

      Just proof that the ability to program computers doesn’t inoculate you against the “They’ll only use this software for good.” and “They’ll never use this to target me or people like me.” -style useful idiocy.

      1. Why is a computer program which lets you enter data and recall it with search terms a groundbreaking thing?

      2. So once the database is hacked, can the programmers be sued for making an insecure (and hence defective) product? Seems like that might be a good way to deter this sort of useful idiocy.

  19. So this includes people with dropped charges or found not guilty.

    Lawyers, start your engines.

    1. Will they have more success this time than they did with people mistakenly put on no-fly/terrorism watchlists?

  20. The presumably well-intentioned developers and data scientists

    I feel this presumption is unwarranted in connection with anything carrying the label “social justice.”

  21. My religion requires sacred prostitution. Obviously the Faithful of Ishtar should be granted an exception.

  22. It never fails to amaze me how goddam self-bloody-righteous Americans can be. You make seriously pornographic movies, some states have legal brothels and yet you put up with wankers like this guy. Which begs the question – is wanking legal?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.