National Sex Buyer Sting Nets More Than 390 Arrests

Feb 6, 2019Press Release

COOK COUNTY, IL – More than 390 individuals were arrested by two dozen police agencies across the country as part of an operation to deter johns and interrupt the online havens of sex trafficking, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.

The 17th National Johns Suppression Initiative (NJSI) spanned 14 states and included law enforcement posting decoy ads on more than a dozen trafficking-related websites. Those ads led to artificial intelligence (AI) bots to deter johns and, in many cases, to police officers who made an arrest.

NJSI ran from Jan. 13 through Feb. 3 and at least 372* sex buyers were arrested, including 21 charged with soliciting a minor, and 23 individuals face charges related to trafficking. Thirty-five individuals, including eight minors, were recovered and offered services. More than two-thirds of the arrests were related to internet ads. Law enforcement agencies in Cook County recorded 38 sex buyer arrests.

Remarkably, the polar vortex that impacted large swaths of the U.S. last week did not deter sex buyers. The operation saw 42 arrests between Tuesday and Thursday in states that were experiencing temperatures well below their seasonal average.

The AI bot, created by, interacts with johns seeking sex and eventually sends a deterrence message warning of the legal and social dangers of buying sex. Seven agencies utilized the bot, cumulatively engaging 1,477 potential sex buyers with a total of nearly 8,500 total messages sent. Sheriff’s Police continue to monitor websites containing sex solicitation ads and buyers are on notice that any of those ads could lead buyers to arrest.

One individual was arrested by Sheriff’s Police after he was determined to be a high-frequency sex buyer. The individual sent more than 350 text messages and placed nine phone calls to bot phone numbers.

Sheriff Dart started NJSI in 2011 to draw national attention to the role sex buyers play in fueling sex trafficking. Since then, Sheriff’s Police and more than 130 participating agencies have arrested more than 9,000 johns.

Agencies that participated in the 17th NJSI* include:

  • Alabama
    • West Alabama Human Trafficking Taskforce – 26 johns arrested, 1 charged with attempting to arrange sex with a minor, 1 pimp/sex trafficker arrested
  • Arizona
    • Phoenix Police Department – 3 johns arrested
    • Mesa Police Department – 15 charged with attempting to arrange sex with a minor, 53 bot contacts
  • California
    • Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department – 47 johns arrested, 1 pimp/sex trafficker arrested, 1 juvenile victim recovered
    • Oakland Police Department – 3 johns arrested
  • Illinois
    • Cook County Sheriff’s Office – 38 johns arrested; 1 indecent solicitation of a minor. Buyer arrests include joint operations with the Lansing Police Department (7 johns arrested), Matteson Police Department (8 johns arrested) and Orland Hills Police Department (7 johns arrested)
      • 159 bot contacts
    • Lake County Sheriff’s Office – 14 johns arrested
    • Rockford Police Department – 3 johns arrested
  • Maryland
    • Howard County Police Department – 8 johns arrested
  • Massachusetts
    • Boston Police Department – 3 johns arrested, 2 charged with keeping a house of prostitution, 6 adults recovered and referred to services
  • Nebraska
    • Lincoln Police Department – 1 john arrested, 3 pimp/sex traffickers arrested, 5 adult victims recovered
  • New York
    • New York Police Department – 17 johns arrested, 575 bot contacts
  • Nevada
    • Las Vegas Metro Police Department – 13 johns arrested
  • Oregon
    • Portland Police Department – 136 bot contacts
  • Pennsylvania
    • Pittsburgh Police Department – 31 johns arrested
    • Upper Merion Township – 4 charged with attempting to arrange sex with a minor
  • Texas
    • Harris County Sheriff’s Office – 80 johns arrested
    • Houston Police Department – 20 johns arrested, 16 pimp/traffickers arrested, 6 adult victims recovered, 6 juvenile victims recovered
    • Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office – 12 johns arrested, 247 bot contacts
  • Washington
    • Seattle Police Department – 25 johns arrested, 24 bot contacts, 10 adult victims recovered, 1 juvenile victim recovered
  • Wisconsin
    • Brown County Sheriff’s Office – 7 johns arrested, 283 bot contacts

Special thank you to Demand Abolition for their continued support of this national initiative.

*Numbers subject to change based on additional reporting agencies