By NBC4 Staff Published: February 9, 2017, 2:43 pm
COOK COUNTY, IL (WCMH) — A national sex trafficking sting ended in the arrests of 552 would-be sex buyers or sex traffickers.
The National Johns Suppression Initiative began three weeks ago, ending on Super Bowl Sunday. Twenty-three law enforcement agencies in 14 states took part in the crackdown.
“Sex trafficking continues to destroy countless lives, and this broad national movement should send a strong message to prospective johns that their ‘hobby’ is much more than a ‘victimless’ crime,” said Cook County, Illinois Sheriff Thomas J. Dart in a news release. “It’s particularly meaningful that this sting culminated on the day of the Super Bowl, which unfortunately has emerged as a prominent haven for sex trafficking.”
In addition to the arrests, police rescued 73 adult victims from human trafficking and 3 juvenile victims.
In the Houston area alone, where this year’s Super Bowl took place, law enforcement arrested 183 “johns” and 9 sex traffickers. Among those arrested was a Houston city employee who pulled up in a city vehicle, two firefighters, a retired police officer and a man who had his 4-year-old child in the car when he tried to buy sex.
“I’m exceedingly proud to lead the nation in targeting sex buyers and traffickers during this annual initiative,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said during a news conference. “Houston was home to Super Bowl LI. As we welcomed the world to our city, we made it clear that there is no place for victimization and sexual exploitation.”
In Seattle, police arrested a john who recently escaped from jail. They also arrested a registered sex offender who tried to convince the undercover detective into working as a prostitute for him.
The participating agencies across the nation have arrested more than 6,500 sex buyers and traffickers since the operations began back in 2011.