McHenry County, IL

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

McHenry County is a county of over 310,000 residents in northeastern Illinois. It is the sixth-most populous county in Illinois, and its county seat is Woodstock. Due in part to the county’s proximity to Chicago, instances of prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented in the county. This activity and its ancillary crimes have generated residential complaints to local law enforcement.

To reduce the demand for commercial sex in the county, the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Human Trafficking Task Force has coordinated reverse sting operations in various cities. The McHenry County Human Trafficking Task Force consists of area police departments, including the Algonquin Police Department, Cary Police Department, Crystal Lake Police Department, Huntley Police Department, Illinois State Police, Lake in the Hills Police Department, McHenry City Police Department, and Woodstock Police Department. For example, in September 2019, the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office’s Human Trafficking Task Force planned, coordinated, and executed a reverse sting in Woodstock that resulted in the arrest of three male sex buyers who were charged with misdemeanor solicitation of a sex act. All three men were released from police custody after posting bail, and each was identified in news reports. The operation was reportedly the first of its kind locally.

In February 2020, the Human Trafficking Task Force arrested four male sex buyers during an online reverse sting operation in Crystal Lake. All four arrested male sex buyers were charged with solicitation of a sex act, a Class A misdemeanor. According to authorities, the operation was a part of the 19th annual nationwide operation of “National Johns Suppression Initiative.” A total of 451 male sex buyers were arrested by law enforcement agencies across the country.

IT-Based Tactics

IT-based tactics have been incorporated into the multi-site demand reduction operations coordinated by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. Since 2011, the Cook County (IL) Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) has been coordinating periodic reverse sting operations occurring simultaneously in multiple cities throughout the United States. The collaborative effort was initially called the “National Day of John Arrests,” and then in 2015 was renamed National Johns Suppression Initiative (NJSI). The coalition of agencies that participate in these coordinated enforcement efforts grew from eight to more than 100. The 19 NJSI operations from 2011 through 2021 have involved the collaboration of over 140 law enforcement agencies, and have collectively produced the arrests of more than 10,000 sex buyers. Since August 2018, some of the NJSI operations have incorporated the use of decoy internet ads that connected to an AI bot, created by The bot interacts with sex buyers to the point where it sends a deterrence message warning of the legal and social dangers of prostitution and sex trafficking.

Initially, the Cook County Sheriff’s Police and eight other agencies utilized the bot, including the principle police departments and sheriff’s offices in Boston, MADes Moines, WAMcHenry County, ILNew York, NYPortland, ORSeattle, WATarrant County, TX; and Upper Merion Township, PA. Across several subsequent NJSI operations, 18 cities and counties used the bots to combat demand.

The childsafe bot and other similar products can continuously scrape data or monitor “signal” from open source electronic communications, analyze the raw input, and flag messages as probably depicting a commercial sex offer or transaction. They also engage buyers in some form of interaction designed to deter individuals from attempting to purchase sex, at the present “point of purchase” moment as well as in the future. This approach seeks to disrupt (and ultimately collapse) commercial sex markets by reducing demand.

Key Partners

  • McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Human Trafficking Task Force
  • Crystal Lake Police Department
  • Woodstock Police Department
  • Algonquin Police Department
  • Cary Police Department
  • Huntley Police Department
  • Lake in the Hills Police Department
  • McHenry City Police Department
  • Illinois State Police

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

IT-Based Tactics:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

State Illinois
Type County
Population 310229
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