The operation led by the Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff also rescued 68 victims, including 14 juveniles

By Jeff Truesdell
Updated February 03, 2015 12:30 PM
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A two-week national undercover operation leading up to last Sunday’s Super Bowl netted the arrests of 570 would-be sex buyers, 23 pimps or traffickers, and the rescue of 68 victims, reports the Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff’s Office.

“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,” said Sheriff Thomas J. Dart, whose office conceived the sweep for the ninth “National Day of Johns Arrests.”

For last year’s Super Bowl in suburban New York City, the FBI worked with more than 50 law enforcement agencies in an operation that rescued 16 juveniles and more than 50 women forced into prostitution, many of whom officials said were brought to the area during the run-up to the game.

This year, in the operation led by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, 37 law enforcement agencies worked across 17 states from Jan. 15 through Feb. 1, primarily targeting those who responded to online solicitations.

According to the sheriff’s office: “The campaign has evolved to highlight the role of classified ad site Backpage.com as a conduit for the sex trade – 64 percent of the johns ended up in handcuffs after answering what they thought were online ads for prostitution on Backpage. Additionally, 7 percent of the johns responded to fake ads on Craigslist.”

Near the site of last Sunday’s Super Bowl itself, the Phoenix, Arizona, Police Department reported the rescue of several women who said they’d been brought in for the game, which was played in suburban Glendale. One victim had broken ribs and black eyes after a beating by her pimp, police said.

Among the 68 victims rescued, the Cook County Sheriff said, 14 were juveniles.

In Cincinnati, police arrested two sex traffickers who they said were using public computers at a local library to post prostitution ads on Backpage.com. In Memphis, the johns arrested included a youth counselor and an Arkansas state correctional officer. And in Boston, where police arrested six pimps or traffickers, one of them “actively tried to recruit an undercover officer to work for him by offering her a place to live and new clothes,” reports the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.

“Sex trafficking continues to destroy countless lives,” Sheriff Dart said in a statement, “and this broad national movement should send a strong message to prospective johns that their ‘hobby’ is much more than a ‘victimless’ crime.”