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COOK COUNTY — Forty-five people were arrested in Cook County as part of a five-week, nationwide sting trying to decrease sex trafficking in the United States.

Of the 45 arrests, seven were made by the Lansing Police Department from June 23 through July 28, officials said. Other local agencies — Matteson, Orland Hills and Broadview — accounted for nine arrests, with the Cook County Sheriff's Office making up the rest.

In 2011, Sheriff Thomas Dart said he started the National Johns Suppression Initiative to "draw national attention to the role sex buyers play in fueling sex trafficking."

Since then, 18 stings have been done, with more than 9,500 Johns being arrested throughout the country. Dart said the latest operation included 26 law enforcement agencies from 11 states, netting at least 503 arrests.

Departments conducted street-level reverse stings and posted decoy ads on sex trafficking websites to lure Johns trying to pay for sex. Dart said some of the internet ads were even linked to interactive artificial intelligence (AI) bots.

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"The AI bot, created by childsafe.ai, interacts with Johns seeking sex and eventually sends a deterrence message warning of the legal and social ramifications of buying sex," Dart said. "The Cook County Sheriff’s Office and five other agencies utilized the bot, engaging a combined total of 3,079 potential sex buyers."

States that participated in addition to Illinois included Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.

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Morning Cops/Breaking News Reporter

Olivia is the morning cops/breaking news reporter at The Times. She spends her time monitoring traffic and weather reports, scanning crime logs and reading court documents. The Idaho native and University of Idaho grad has been with The Times since 2019.