In an effort to increase penalties on people utilizing sexual services in Rockford, and thus ‘End Demand’ for those services, Rockford began impounding vehicles of drivers caught in the act. The impound fees are deposited in a fund, which is then used to help get women out of the sex trade. At least, in theory. How effective is this program? How much money has it taken in, and how is that money being used? These are the questions I set out to answer.
Prostitution has long been an issue in the City of Rockford. Academic studies, news reports, and anecdotal evidence show Rockford is a popular sex tourism destination for men all over the stateline.
Though local law enforcement continues to conduct stings and arrests, prostitutes are still a common sight in some neighborhoods. Police estimate there are 15 to 20 prostitutes on Rockford’s streets at any given time, but many more ply their trade online.
Since 2015, Rockford has tried a new strategy to combat prostitution and human trafficking in the city. Its advocates call it the “End Demand Strategy,” focusing on targeting demand for sexual services. While too early to evaluate its success or failure, organizations like Rockford Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (RAASE), in cooperation with local law enforcement, have made small steps toward implementing this strategy.
Rockford took a step toward “Ending Demand” in 2015 by enacting an ordnance levying a new penalty for drivers caught soliciting a prostitute and committing other sex-trade related crimes. Individuals picked up for solicitation while operating a motor vehicle now have their car impounded, which costs $1,000 to recover.
On Jan. 5, 2015, Rockford aldermen unanimously approved an amendment to the city’s vehicle impound ordinance, Sec. 17-28(m), authorizing the city to deposit impound fees into a fund earmarked for rehabilitation, outreach and education services, GED attainment, and job training for former prostitutes and victims of human trafficking.
According to RAASE President Jennifer Cacciapaglia, her organization worked with the city’s code and regulation committee to craft the new ordinance. They based it on Cook County Code of Ordinances Sec. 58-164, which imposes a $500 fine, plus any towing and storage fees, for cars impounded in the course of committing certain sex and drug crimes. [Read More…]