Chicago, IL

Tactics Used

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

Chicago is the major metropolitan center of Cook County, Illinois, with a population of over 2.7 million residents.  Prostitution, sex trafficking, and related violence are well-documented in the city and throughout Cook County.  For example, between 1951 and 1956, there was a federal campaign against organized interstate prostitution – much of which would now be called sex trafficking – in the upper Midwest of the United States. A series of investigations and enforcement operations revealed a prostitution and sex trafficking network centered in a bar in Minneapolis, MN, and spanning numerous cities in several states, including Chicago; Sioux Falls, SD; Eau Claire, La Crosse, and Superior, WI.  In December 1951 the FBI announced a campaign against organized interstate prostitution in the Upper Midwest, and when George MacKinnon took over as US Attorney for Minnesota in 1953, he targeted a prostitution enterprise that stretched from Chicago to Sioux Falls and beyond, with a nexus at a Northeast Minneapolis saloon called John’s Bar and Funhouse. By the end of the campaign in mid-1956, John’s Bar had lost its license, and 110 men and women had been convicted of violating the Mann Act. At the extreme end of the seriousness spectrum of negative impacts of prostitution is the targeted homicide of commercial sex providers.  One study found that many of the 75 women smothered or strangled in Chicago from 2001 to 2017 had been involved in street prostitution, providing yet another indication of how prostituted persons are particularly vulnerable to extreme harm.  More common problems encountered locally are a wide range of crimes that are disproportionately found connected to commercial sex, including child endangerment, drug addiction, weapons violations, assault, rape, and negative health consequences.

Many of the initiatives meant to combat sex trafficking and prostitution in the greater Cook County area overlap with, or include, the city of Chicago.  For example, End Demand Illinois and the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) include Chicago in their efforts and collaborate with legislators, police, nonprofit organizations, and others within the city.  For descriptions of the wider efforts across Cook County (many of which include Chicago), please visit the Cook County page by clicking HERE. On this page, we focus on some of the efforts to combat demand that are specific to the city of Chicago and do not generally cross over into Cook County.

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure, Vehicle Impound

The city of Chicago was an “early adopter” of tactics focused on reducing demand for commercial sex.  City police have conducted reverse stings since 1973, if not before.  In the 1970s and 1980s, they conducted some large-scale reverse stings.  In 1978, for example, Chicago conducted that is perhaps the largest single reverse sting operation ever to occur in the United States.  Chicago police deployed 40 decoys (women police officers posing as women engaging in prostitution) and their support teams throughout the city.  Over a 30-hour period, they arrested 592 men, who were charged with soliciting for prostitution.  Another city-wide operation, smaller in scope, resulted in the arrest of over 100 sex buyers in 1981.  Reverse stings have occurred periodically from the 1970s through the present.  Currently, the Chicago Police Department posts on their website the photos and identifying information about those arrested in reverse stings (the link to the page is provided below).  For a general overview of reverse stings, click HERE, and for shaming, click HERE.

Chicago John Schools

There have been two john schools that have operated in Chicago.  The first was operated by Genesis House from 1999 to 2005, in collaboration with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the Chicago Police Department.  It was discontinued when Genesis House was dissolved.  A new program was soon initiated to fill the void, in September 2006, and is still operating.  This second Chicago john school is called the Amend Program.  It is operated by the Christian Community Health Center.

The Amend Program was modeled after the First Offender Prostitution Program (FOPP) in San Francisco.  It is a one-day, 8-hour class that addresses health risks, legal consequences, community impact, sex addiction, domestic violence, and presentations by survivors of commercial sex about their negative experiences and the trauma that resulted.  Men arrested in reverse stings that are eligible are offered the opportunity to purse the program.  They pay a fee on a sliding scale, from $100 to $500, and take the class.  Meeting these conditions results in dismissal of charges.

For a general overview of john schools, click HERE.

Key Sources

National Assessment Survey, Interviews, and Site Visit

Reverse Stings:

Auto Seizure:

Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Illinois
Type City
Population 2710000
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