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updated: 7/30/2013 7:43 PM

Cook County-led sex trafficking sting yields 359 arrests

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Just one day after the FBI announced widespread arrests saved 105 young people -- mostly teenage girls -- who were forced into prostitution, the Cook County sheriff's office said a national sex trafficking sting focused on demand yielded 359 arrests.

The sixth annual National Day of Johns Arrests campaign brought together 36 agencies in 17 states from Washington to Virginia. Locally, they included the Cook County sheriff's office, which served as the lead coordinating agency, as well as the FBI's Orland Park office, the Kane County sheriff's office and the Aurora and Elgin police departments.

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"This broad national partnership and the sheer number of arrests should send a strong message to prospective sex solicitors that their 'hobby' will inevitably land them in jail or worse," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said in a statement.

The coalition of federal and local law enforcement agencies arrested 323 would-be sex solicitors and 36 pimps, according to the news release. Seven of the pimping arrests were for juvenile sex trafficking, including two victims ages 15 and 17 in Cook County.

Charges stemming from the effort include adult and juvenile felony sex trafficking, criminal solicitation of a minor, pimping, pandering, promotion of adult and juvenile prostitution and public indecency. The sweep also yielded charges related to drug trafficking and possession of illegal firearms, the release stated.

The Minneapolis Police Department arrested 53 johns, the most of any jurisdiction, including Canadian politician Michael Trend Allen of the Alberta Legislative Assembly, the release stated.

Dart said results from the three-week sweep that ended Sunday and the fact that the 2013 campaign included 18 new law enforcement agencies reflect growing momentum in the national effort.

"No longer should sex trafficking be viewed as a victimless crime," Dart said. "These women have been brutalized and taken advantage of -- and the most effective way to deter these heinous crimes is to target the demand."

The sting was separate from a nationwide sex trafficking crackdown announced Monday by the FBI. Authorities in that case said they saved 105 young people who were forced into prostitution. Two children and numerous prostitution-related arrests were made in the metropolitan area, including in Arlington Heights and Naperville.

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