AP Photo/Winslow Townson
Just a few months after joining the CEASE (Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation) Network, Boston is already being recognized for its effort to end sex-buying by focusing on buyers. Calling on the city to use its Olympic bid to tackle trafficking locally, a Boston Globe editorial commends Mayor Walsh for targeting johns—those with the power and choice—rather than the people, mostly women and girls, being exploited.
It’s Happening Here – According to the Globe: “There were 54 reported cases of human trafficking in Massachusetts last year (from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center), and most of them were related to sex trafficking. Contrary to stereotype, relatively few human-trafficking victims come from overseas; many of the girls and women forced into prostitution in Boston grew up in the city.”
“The city’s anti-prostitution policies properly focus on pimps and the johns who buy sex, rather than the women who are often forced into prostitution. Mayor Walsh has already launched a program aimed at cutting demand, with a goal of reducing online solicitation by 20 percent and street-level prostitution by 80 percent over the next two years.”
According to the Republic, some interesting findings from the sting:
- Only six callers hung up when detectives disclosed their identities; 229 callers listened to the intervention.
- 25% of callers visited the website for more information
- Several callers rang from their office lines at 30 Arizona businesses, including the entertainment, pharmaceutical, technology, manufacturing and transportation fields.
- 80% of callers responded to only one ad, indicating that most are casual shoppers rather than “hobbyists.”
In Arizona, local law enforcement with CEASE Phoenix recently conducted a “Jamming Johns” operation as part of a broader awareness strategy to target the demand for sex-buying. Phoenix police detectives informed hundreds of johns who called in response to an ad for sex that if caught, they’ll no longer get off with a ticket, but will spend time in jail. Police conducted about 230 of these phone conversations, reaching far more potential johns than they would in a typical sting operation. In all, 1,165 johns replied to five ads posted by Phoenix police over four days.
The detectives educated the men about the city’s new policy and the harms of sex trafficking, directing them to azbuyerbeware.com for more information. Phoenix police Sergeant Clay Sutherlin said, “If you’re attacking this, you have to go after the demand element. We know that through the years, the customer has gotten off easy—the perception was that the girl is the problem.”
The Arizona Republic carried a front-page story on the operation, adding a public spotlight on this innovative campaign.