Winnebago 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

Winnebago County is a county  of almost 285,000 residents in northern Illinois, on the border with Wisconsin. It is the seventh most populous county in Illinois behind Cook County and its county seat is Rockford. Local law enforcement agencies have reported complaints from residents about prostitution activity for several decades. The county has documented child sex trafficking cases, and has on multiple occasions recovered minor females when making prostitution sweeps. Rockford has served as the operating base for a serial rapist targeting women offering prostitution, and law enforcement have investigated cases involving the murder of prostituted persons within the county.

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 Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office has often collaborated with city police departments on reverse stings, sometimes in response to community complaints. In an online operation in July 2015, 11 sex buyers were arrested and several had their cars impounded following a joint sting conducted by the Rockford Police Department and Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office near the Midtown District of Rockford. During the operation, police observed each individual drive to the location officers gave to them, after which their 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 December 2015, the Rockford Register Star reported the arrests of four sex buyers following an anti-prostitution detail at a Machesney Park-area motel. Logistical details of the investigation were not disclosed (e.g., whether or not the sting was conducted at street level or using web-based advertisements), though a Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department press release indicated that the sting had been overseen by its Tactical Anti-Crime Unit. The identities and mugshots of those arrested were also publicized in press.

In April 2017, eleven men were arrested in a human trafficking sting conducted by Rockford Police and the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office after they received complaints about prostitution occurring in several Rockford hotels. The men were arrested and charged with solicitation of a sex act. A woman was also arrested and charged with involuntary sexual servitude of a minor after being found with a 17-year-old girl whose sexual exploitation she was allegedly facilitating. The men’s identities were released to the press.

Key Partners

  • Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department
    • Tactical Anti-Crime Unit
  • Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office
  • Rockford Police Department
  • Rockford Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (RAASE)
State Illinois
Type County
Population 283635
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