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Cook County sheriff’s officers arrest 157 in undercover prostitution sting

Sheriff Tom Dart started the program in 2011.

Sheriff Tom Dart
The Cook County sheriff’s office, with the help of several suburban police departments, arrested 157 “johns” during a one-month undercover prostitution sting that ended Feb. 2. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart started the program back in 2011. | Sun-Times file photo.

Cook County sheriff’s officers have scooped up 157 “johns” during a recently completed one-month sting operation aimed at cutting into the demand for prostitution, a sheriff’s department spokesman said Wednesday.

It’s part of a nationwide program Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart began in 2011; it has netted some 10,000 arrests in total, according to the department.

“Usually, (the customer’s) reaction is obviously one of surprise,” said Joseph Ryan, a sheriff’s office spokesman. “Almost all of the time, they say this is the first time they ever did this and that they are all really sorry.”

The most recent operation ended Monday. It received assistance from police in several suburbs, including Rosemont, Orland Hills, Matteson and Lansing, officials said. All but one of those arrested during the operation were men, ranging in age from a teenager to a man in his 70s. A woman in her 40s was cited Jan. 29, the sheriff’s office said.

The sting begins with a decoy online ad for a prostitute — but the person responding to the ad actually reaches an undercover female officer. That officer arranges to meet the customer at a Cook County hotel for sex. Soon after the customer arrives, he’s arrested — but usually not charged with a crime.

The sheriff’s office says a fine — $1,000, plus $500 to retrieve a towed vehicle — is a more effective deterrent.

“They don’t do any time [behind bars],” said Sophia Ansari, a sheriff’s office spokeswoman. “They’ll get court supervision.”

While in custody, the customer is shown a video of the impacts of the often harrowing existence of a woman in prostitution.