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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: Seattle targets sex buyers as part of national initiative

8/21/2012  1:30:00 PM
Kimberly Mills  (206) 684-8602

Shifting the emphasis from targeting sellers to buyers of sex, Seattle Police Department officers arrested 10 men last week for the crime of purchasing sex from a prostituted person, as part of the National Day of Johns Arrests.

The National Day of Johns Arrests is an initiative aimed at the buyers of commercial sex, recognizing that sex buyers fund and perpetuate a violent and exploitative industry. The City Attorney’s Office will review the arrest reports to potentially charge the men with soliciting a prostitute, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Data collected by SPD indicate that the men arrested vary widely in age, but seven of 10 are between 18 and 40. Four are Caucasian, the largest ethnic group represented, and the majority holds a high school diploma. Three have college degrees and one, a graduate degree. Five are single, one married, two are in relationships and one is separated. All but one claims not to have solicited a prostituted person before.

SPD information also indicates that prostituted people are overwhelmingly women and adolescent girls, and are almost always trapped in their situation by financial hardship, drug addiction and violent pimps. With no meaningful way for prostituted people to better their lives, prostitution is not a “victimless” crime. Up to now, moreover, more than 60% of those arrested in connection with prostitution have been the prostituted women themselves, while fewer than 40% of those arrested are the men who fund prostitution. “Seattle is committed to flipping these numbers around,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes.

SPD’s arrests represent Seattle’s commitment to ending the sex trade by cutting off demand for commercial sex. If no one were buying sex, pimps and human traffickers would not be able to profit by victimizing women, and the sex trade would rapidly disappear, according to Demand Abolition, a group that advocates greater law enforcement focus on sex buyers so as to end the sex trade in the United States, and supports this initiative. Punishing the purchase of sex will reduce demand, and by taking part in the National Day of Johns Arrests, as well as making a future commitment to focus on arresting buyers instead of victims, Seattle contributes to this national project.

The National Day of Johns Arrests is organized by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. Nationally, 267 people were arrested for attempting to purchase sex. Other cities and counties participating included Boston, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and many others. For more background, read "Rewriting the prostitution narrative".

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