YORK, Pa. AP — Inside the bedroom, Heather Strausbaugh sat talking with her client — the conversation ranged from nightlife and bars to their families. The man seemed nervous.
Prostitution stings are a common method used by the police to combat prostitution. In a typical sting operation, undercover police officers pose as prostitutes and communicate with clients to set up appointments to engage in commercial sex acts. Often, following a major prostitution sting, the police share information about the operation with the media in an effort to dissuade others from engaging in similar behavior. It is important to note that the police must follow specific guidelines when carrying out such operations.
But in a cigarette-scented hotel room near a Chicago airport, more than a dozen men come and go with wet cheeks and quivering lips. No one had died, no national tragedy had occurred— they had just been caught trying to buy sex. Across the country, cops are implementing a strategy that has long been undercover escorts in Europe: targeting the men who buy sex while trying to help the women who sell it. Some police and scholars say that focusing law enforcement attention on sex buyers reduces demand for prostitution, which strangles the sex industry and curbs human trafficking.
But some human rights organizations, most recently Amnesty International, advocate for the decriminalization of all aspects of sex work, including buying sex. While Amnesty International members were considering whether to recommend decriminalizing sex work altogether, I was with a TIME video team on two buyer-focused sex stings in Cook County, Ill. Watching guys get caught is like watching that fantasy get destroyed over and over. The men are all different races and ages, from all walks of life— the only thing they have in common is shock.
Some sit motionless with their hands over their eyes. One, a man so wide cops needed two pairs of handcuffs to arrest him, sat on the bedspread shaking his head slowly. Another expressed incredulity at his arrest, arguing that cops should be going after rapists and child molesters instead. Until recently, most jurisdictions in the U. Cook county does johns stings year-round, but the national initiative happens a few times a year. Our first sting starts in an anonymous hotel room near a Chicago airport.
The bedspread smells like old cigarettes and the air conditioner is acting up. Our room is filled with burly cops in baseball caps and T-shirts, badges hung around their necks, watching TV and joking around. In the room across the hall are female undercover officers dressed as sex workers. A hot pink tank-top, leopard print leggings. Only a few hours earlier, they had placed on a site called back. You want to party?
What does your ass look like? The cops gather by the door, looking through the keyhole and waiting for a from the undercover officer.
For a few seconds, all joking stops, and everyone is absolutely silent. Once a deal has been made for sex, the undercover officer gives an electronic al and the other cops rush in and cuff the buyer. The whole process usually takes under a minute.
His logic is that the cops are out there so infrequently, only people buying regular sex are likely to get caught. Deputy Chief Anton rolled his eyes and made a crybaby face, but let the kid off with just the ticket, without towing his car.
Versions of this approach are slowly spreading across the U. Some cities, like Seattle, have developed their own versions of this strategy but traded notes with Dart. Some human rights groups take issue with this approach.
On August 11, Amnesty International voted to recommend the complete decriminalization of prostitution, both for the buyers and sellers, saying that criminal laws against the consensual adult sex trade violates the human rights of sex workers. While UNAIDS and the World Health Organization have ly called for the decriminalization of sex work for public health reasons in order to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseasesand other groups have advocated the same, Amnesty International is the first major international human rights group to issue a full-throated global public policy recommendation for lifting laws against buying and selling of sex purely on humans rights grounds.
Former President Jimmy Undercover escorts wrote a strongly worded letter to Amnesty members urging them to vote against the policy, and Gloria Steinem and Lena Dunham were among hundreds of feminists and human rights activists who ed a letter arguing that decriminalizing sex buying would lead to more sexual exploitation of the most vulnerable women in society.
After Germany legalized prostitution inpolice reported it became much more difficult to target abusive pimps, even as social workers said that prostitutes were working in even worse conditions than before, according to a article in German magazine Der Speigel. And a report published in the journal World Development found that as a general trend, countries with legalized prostitution tend to have more human trafficking.
They wear stained clothing, gym shoes, and leave their hair looking dirty, because they say most of the women working the streets have hit rock bottom.
In a street operation, the female undercover officer stands on the corner in full view of a fellow officer, Officer Dan. When a car pulls up to her, Officer Dan radios the make and model to his fellow officers waiting in an arrest car. As soon as she makes a deal for sex, usually only a few seconds after the car pulls up, Officer Kate make a special gesture and moves away from the car. The john is arrested within seconds, and taken to a holding area, where he goes through the same process as the guys caught in the hotel sting.
Back has sued Dart in federal court, claiming his crusade violates their free speech, and a federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order against Dart. But Visa and Mastercard have not yet undercover escorts to the site, and Back did not respond to requests for comment. Even though a citation sounds more lenient, the hefty fine serves are more of a deterrent to sex buyers than a misdemeanor charge.
Not everyone who works in the sex trade is a victim. Yet a ificant portion of women who work in the sex trade are coerced in some way.
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And sex trafficking commonly defined as recruitment, coercion or transport for the purposes of sexual exploitationis rampant. Of the human trafficking prosecutions pursued by the Department of Justice inwere for sex trafficking, according to a State Department report on trafficking released in July. In some cases, especially in the United States, the line between trafficking and consensual sex work can get blurry.
He was just regular, a regular person. Caprice is a former prostitute who says she was coerced into selling sex for a pimp from the age of Many advocates for decriminalization point to a well-documented police mistreatment of sex workers as justification for lifting all laws against prostitution. Despite her experience with arrests, Caprice still thinks something should be done about the sex trade.
Kimmy agrees. Advocates for sex worker rights argue that targeting buyers actually makes street workers less safe, since clients are jittery and the worker has less time to screen them.
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