The 17th National Johns Suppression Initiative operation to deter sex buyers resulted in over 370 arrests spanning fourteen states nationwide. The operation was conducted from January 13 through February 3 and was run by two dozen police agencies across the country, including Pennsylvania’s own Upper Merion Township and Pittsburgh Police Departments.
According to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, thirty-five individuals, including eight minors, have been recovered and offered services. Twenty-three individuals face charges relating to trafficking, while twenty-one have been charged with soliciting a minor.
One method that the National Johns Suppression Initiative employed to deter and catch sex buyers was to place decoy ads on more than a dozen trafficking-related websites. Once a potential sex buyer clicked on the ad, artificial intelligence (AI) bots would send deterrence messages warning of the legal and social dangers of buying sex. Nearly 8,500 messages were sent to 1,477 potential sex buyers. Additionally, the ads often led to police officers who then made an arrest.
As staunch advocates of the Nordic Model, the CSE Institute commends the National Johns Suppression Initiative and each police agency involved in the operation for using demand-driven tactics to combat human trafficking. Since the National Johns Suppression Initiative began in 2011, it has resulted in seventeen operations and the arrests of over 9,000 sex buyers nationwide. Other jurisdictions should look to this operation as a model of how to use demand-driven police tactics to combat human trafficking, and consider joining the National Johns Suppression Initiative in their next operation.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or Villanova University.