Aurora, IL

Tactics Used

Buyer Arrests
Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

Aurora is a city of approximately 200,000 residents, located 40 miles east of Chicago. It is the second most populous city in Illinois, with city boundaries extending into Kane, DuPage, Will and Kendall counties. The Aurora Police Department has adopted an aggressive approach to combat demand for commercial sex. In the early 1990s, APD officers incorporated the use of street-level reverse stings. Operations are now routinely conducted, using one or more undercover female officers as decoys. In addition to city initiatives, the APD has coordinated with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and dozens of other law enforcement agencies to participate in several “National Day of John Arrests” investigations. For example, a reverse sting conducted in September 2013 resulted in the arrest of eight sex buyers.

In April 2016, Aurora police placed ads on a website in which women offered sex for money at an Aurora hotel. Once the meetings were agreed upon and the defendants went to the hotel, they offered money to the woman, who was an undercover officer. The men were immediately arrested. Thirteen sex buyers were arrested in the web-based reverse sting, and the men were identified in news releases. Police also impounded the vehicles of all 13 men and they had to pay $500 each to retrieve them.

In August 2017, a man was convicted of involuntary sexual servitude of a minor, traveling to meet a minor, and grooming after being one of eight men charged in a 2015 undercover sex trafficking sting in Aurora. He faced six to 30 years in prison for traveling to Aurora and paying to have sex with a minor, in addition to registering as a sex offender for 10 years. In 2015, he traveled from DuPage County to an Aurora hotel with the intention of paying to have sex with a 14-year-old and 15-year-old girl. After arriving at the hotel and meeting a woman he believed to be the girls’ mother, he confirmed that he wanted sexual favors from the teens and paid the woman $200 before being arrested by officers from Homeland Security Investigations and the APD. His arrest was part of a six-week operation conducted by the Aurora Police Special Operations Group targeting suspects in a web-based reverse sting.

To further discourage sex buyers, local law enforcement and city officials may apply stringent penalties to offenders. As per a 1993 city ordinance, sex buyers attempting to solicit sex from a vehicle may have their cars seized and impounded. They may also be subject to SOAP (or Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution) orders, barring them from reentering areas known for commercial sex sales.

While the APD has released offenders’ names to the media for years, the department reformulated its “shaming” tactics in August 2002. Following a series of large-scale reverse stings, the APD offered a small number of arrestees the chance to expunge the criminal charge from their record in exchange for discussing their offense with the public. Using a town hall format, citizens from the neighborhoods involved in the vice sweeps were given the opportunity to talk to the men about the impacts of street prostitution on their families and communities.

John Schools

Expanding upon this dual-strategy of engagement and deterrence, Aurora implemented a john school program in 2002. The program was structured as a pre-trial diversion option. To participate, men had to sign a statement admitting the offense. If they completed the program and one year of pretrial supervision without committing more criminal offenses, no convictions would appear on their records. The first set of 19 men receiving lectures in 2002 were among 31 arrested during reverse prostitution stings on the city’s near east and southeast sides. Each was charged with solicitation of a prostitute and given the options of taking part in the pre-trial diversion program to keep their records clean or stand trial and face up to a year in jail, if convicted. The program, which Kane County prosecutors believes was the first of its kind in Illinois, was modeled after a successful one in Indianapolis (the Red Zone Program) that had been operating for more than three years previously. The Aurora program’s objective was to impress on arrested sex buyers that prostitution damages neighborhoods and is not a victimless crime, in order to prevent future soliciting. “We want to impress on them the ill effects of prostitution, as a drag on the Police Department and as a negative effect on the community in general,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Richard C. Irvin, who visited the Indianapolis program and organized the one in Aurora.

A second version of a john school was launched in 2009 in Aurora. The school was initially funded by the Aurora Weed & Seed initiative, which targets issues identified by the community as key public safety concerns.

Key Partners

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey and Interviews

Reverse Stings and Shaming:

Web Stings:

Auto Seizure:

Neighborhood Action/Shaming/Informal John School:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

State Illinois
Type City
Population 199927
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