Rockford, 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

Rockford is a mid-sized city of roughly 148,000 residents, located in northern Illinois’ Winnebago County. Local law enforcement agencies have reported complaints from residents about prostitution activity in the city for decades. The city has also documented numerous child sex trafficking cases, and has on multiple occasions recovered underaged girls when conducting prostitution sweeps. Rockford has also served as the operating base for a serial rapist targeting prostituted women, and law enforcement agencies have investigated cases involving the murder of women prostituted within the city.

To combat prostitution and sex trafficking in the area, local law enforcement agencies have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex, which provides the revenue stream driving all commercial sex and trafficking. To identify and apprehend local sex buyers driving the prostitution and sex trafficking markets, the Rockford Police Department has conducted street-level reverse stings, some in response to community complaints. The Rockford Police Department has conducted periodic reverse stings since at least 1999, and has publicized the names of arrestees since the early 2000s.  In a 2013 study by the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Rockford was ranked second in the state (behind Chicago) in the total number of online postings by sex buyers, and in 2015, a web-based reverse sting was conducted.

The city also instituted a vehicle seizure ordinance in 2010. In 2015 alone, the Rockford Advocate reported that RPD officers had collected “$14,200 in impound fees from solicitation arrests.” These funds are redirected to “qualifying nonprofits” serving human trafficking victims as designated by the Rockford Human Services Department through the Rockford Human Trafficking Grant Program.

In July 2015, 11 sex buyers were arrested and several had their vehicles impounded following a RPD/Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office joint sting near the Midtown District.  During the operation, police observed each individual drive to the location officers gave to them, and due to that reason, the vehicles were impounded. Since the vehicles were used to “further an act of prostitution or solicitation of the act,” the minimum impound fee was set at $1,000. In 2018, the Rockford Police Department arrested one prostituted person, but more than a dozen sex buyers were arrested and spent time in jail.

In May 2018, four men were arrested during an undercover prostitution sting. In August 2019, 27 men were arrested after an investigation into the illegal sex trade at two lingerie shops that spanned several months. The reputations of the businesses had persisted for years before police raided the two establishments in May 2019 and the city shut them down for code violations. No one was charged with prostitution, part of the city’s strategy to focus on those who buy sex or facilitate the sale of it. The women described as “prostitutes” in court documents are listed as witnesses to the alleged crimes.  The identities of the male sex buyers were disclosed publicly, and included a former CEO, a bank president, an elected official, a youth soccer coach, doctors, and other prominent business leaders.

Key Partners

  • Rockford Police Department
  • Rockford Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (RAASE)
  • Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE)
  • Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office
  • Rockford Human Services Department

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Vehicle 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 147711
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