In an effort to target and reduce sex trafficking, a national coalition of law enforcement agencies conducted coordinated sting operations that led to 752* arrests, including 723 sex buyers (or “johns”) and 29 pimps or sex traffickers.
In its 13th operation, the National Johns Suppression Initiative (NJSI) ran from Jan. 18 – Feb. 5 (Super Bowl Sunday) and included nearly 30 law enforcement agencies across 15 states. Both the arrest number and the participation level were the highest to-date for Super Bowl operations since the initiative began. Among the arresting agencies were the Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff’s Police – the law enforcement agencies within the city that hosted Super Bowl 51.
NJSI operations were conceived of and launched by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart in 2011 to bring further attention to the tragic and exploitive nature of the sex trafficking industry. Since the operations began, Cook County Sheriff’s Police and participating agencies from across the country have arrested more than 6,500 sex buyers and traffickers.
To further illustrate the exploitation associated with sex trafficking, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office has released an associated report titled “Buyers and Sellers: A Window into Sex Trafficking.” The report explores the duality of the lives of sex buyers and sex trafficking victims based on anonymous arrest data of sex buyers collected in NJSI operations and interviews with victims over the course of a four-year period.
According to the data, sex buyers are more often Caucasian, at least high school educated, and in many cases, college educated, middle-aged-or-older men. Many are married and very few are unemployed.
According to interviews of those who self-reported as being involved in prostitution, most started before they turned 21, used drugs – most often highly addictive drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine. A majority reported experiencing violence against them, including sexual assault as an adult or child.
Cumulative numbers from the 13th NJSI operation are as follows:
- 29 sex trafficking arrests
- 723 sex solicitation arrests (sex buyers)
- $1,118,557 in minimum possible fines
- 86 adult victims recovered
- 6 juveniles rescued
Noteworthy anecdotes from the operation include:
- The Harris County Sheriff’s Office arrested 178 sex buyers
- The sex buyers arrested included a high school principal, college professor and fireman.
- Houston Police Department (HPD) arrested 105 sex buyers
- One sex seller came to Houston to make money during the Super Bowl and was shot in the head by a local sex buyer – two suspects have been arrested.
- Three sex buyers were arrested for attempting to solicit a minor for commercial sex via the internet.
- One sex buyer had his four year old son with him while arrested.
- Portland Police Department arrested 31 sex buyers
- One sex buyer was arrested twice in the same sting after answering a subsequent undercover ad after being released from his first arrest.
Agencies who participated in the 13th NJSI* include:
- Phoenix Police Department – 34 sex buyers arrested
- Mesa Police Department – 8 sex buyers arrested
- Glendale Police Department – 6 sex buyers arrested
- Cochise County Attorney – 1 sex buyer arrested
- Little Rock Police Department – 10 sex buyers arrested
- Oakland Police Department – 1 juvenile rescued
- San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force – 22 sex buyers arrested, 1 pimp/sex-trafficker arrest
- Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office – 6 sex buyers arrested
- Cook County Sheriff’s Office – 101 sex buyers arrested, three adult victims recovered, data includes Lansing Police Department (6 sex buyers arrested) and Matteson Police Department (11 sex buyers arrested)
- Arlington Heights Police Department – 5 sex buyers arrested
- Lake County Sheriff’s Office – 2 sex buyers arrested
- Sioux City Police Department – 4 sex buyers arrested
- Prince Georges County Police Department – 10 sex buyers arrested, 33 adult victims recovered
- Boston Police Department – 15 sex buyers arrested
- Burlington Police Department – 2 sex buyers arrested, 1 pimp/sex trafficker arrest
- Lincoln Police Department – 5 sex buyers arrested
- New York
- New York Police Department – 44 sex buyers arrested
- Las Vegas Police Department – 11 sex buyers arrested
- Reno Police Department – 12 sex buyers arrested
- Portland Police Department – 31 sex buyers arrested
- Pittsburgh Police Department – 18 sex buyers arrested
- Upper Merion Township Police Department – 3 sex buyers arrested
- Harris County Sheriff’s Office – 178 sex buyers arrested
- Houston Police Department – 105 sex buyers arrested, 27 pimps/sex traffickers arrested, 49 adult victims recovered/offered services, 3 juvenile victims rescued
- McLennan County Sheriff’s Office – 44 sex buyers arrested
- Newport News Police Department – 7 sex buyers arrested
- Seattle Police Department – 39 sex buyers arrested
*Number subject to change based on additional law enforcement agencies reporting