Mug Shots: The Charge Fits the Crime?

This is the fourth in a series of articles regarding a policy of the Chicago Police Department (CPD), in conjunction with the Mayor’s office, to make publicly available (online for 30 days) mug shots of all individuals who have been arrested (not convicted) for patronizing or soliciting for prostitution.

Part One: The Public Shaming of “Johns”
Part Two: Transgender “Johns”
Part Three: Why Are So Many Transgender Women Arrested for “Buying” Sex?

Does the charge fit the crime?

When analyzing arrest data, it’s assumed that people are charged with the “correct” crime. In the case of prostitution-related crimes, it’s reasonable to assume that buyers are charged with “buying” offenses, sellers with “selling” offenses, and arrangers with “arranging” offenses.

As we mentioned in a previous post, our preliminary fieldwork with cisfemale (females whose gender identity and presentation match that considered appropriate to their sex) sex workers in Chicago reveals this might not be the case. Continue reading

Mug Shots: Why Are So Many Transgender Women Arrested for “Buying” Sex?

This is the third in a series of articles regarding a policy of the Chicago Police Department (CPD), in conjunction with the Mayor’s office, to make publicly available (online for 30 days) mug shots of all individuals who have been arrested (not convicted) for patronizing or soliciting for prostitution.

Part One: The Public Shaming of “Johns”  |  Part Two: Transgender “Johns”

In our previous post, we questioned why transgender individuals totaled more than 10% of the arrests made for “buying” sex. We speculated that it’s much more likely that these individuals are “sellers,” not “buyers,” even if they’re identified on the website as “buyers.”

Our hypothesis

We agree with Emi Koyama at Eminism—as far as we know, no studies have demonstrated that a large proportion of transgender women are patronizing prostitutes. Research study after research study has pointed out that transgender women are much more likely to sell sex for survival, due largely to a lack of familial support and severe employment discrimination, resulting in great poverty. Thus, it’s much more likely that  individuals arrested for solicitation and patronizing are actually  “sellers.” So why do they appear online as “buyers”?

In our sample, 80% of the transgender women arrested were charged under Chicago Municipal Code 8-8-060, street solicitation for prostitution. Our layman’s reading of this statute indicates that the city considers public buying, arranging, and selling of sex as street solicitation for prostitution. Continue reading

Follow up: “Mug Shots: The Public Shaming of Johns”

We received great feedback about our first “Johns” mug shots post. We wanted to  directly respond to issues/suggestions/comments people raised.

Molly commented:

This finding is very interesting! I teach a drugs and society class, and one of the arguments I make is that, though drug arrests may be clustered in certain neighborhoods, the people buying drugs come from all over the city. Certain neighborhoods (usually poor, minority) take the brunt of the crime and police surveillance, even though those who are using may live anywhere in the city. I think your data reflect this same trend.

This is an astute observation. Certain neighborhoods do bear the brunt of illegal activities.  Recently the RedEye (a local daily newspaper published by the Chicago Tribune) released a map of homicides in Chicago from January to the end of May 2012. If you compare this map to the map from our previous post, you can see that prostitution, compared to homicides, is even more geographically concentrated. Due to the market and geographic nature of street-level prostitution, certain parts of certain neighborhoods bear the brunt of both the occurrence and/or the enforcement of prostitution.

Darby Hickey of Best Practices Policy Project suggested that we rephrase our description of sex in our previous post. She said the term “biological men” may offend many in the trans community. We definitely don’t want to be offensive and have made changes to the previous post. What we (perhaps poorly) were trying say was that the CPD posts mug shots of individuals whom they classify as “male.”

Anonymous commented offline that we should probably explain a bit more about the social geography of Chicago for those who are unfamiliar with the city.

From our post: “Not surprisingly, most arrests occur on the West and South Sides.

The far West and South Sides are the most impoverished areas of Chicago. The downtown and North Side are more economically advantaged.

Anonymous also wondered why we found the following surprising.

From our post: “While the vast majority of these arrests are for street-based prostitution, one of the more interesting (surprising?) findings is the extreme street-nature of the arrests. Instead of being clustered in neighborhoods, they appear to follow major streets in Chicago, often crossing several neighborhoods. (The exception to this is the cluster around the Englewood and Auburn Gresham neighborhoods.)

Like many urban areas, Chicago is all about the neighborhood—only a few blocks makes a huge difference in housing prices, crime, etc. We expected to find arrests clustered in the more impoverished (or “bad”) neighborhoods, as occurred in the Englewood area (known as one of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods with the highest crime). In other words, we expected to see clusters. Instead, arrests occur along major streets—streets that often cross several neighborhoods. They don’t appear to be restricted to the most impoverished areas but rather along major streets, which is reasonable since these arrests are mostly for street-based prostitution.

Thanks to all who responded. Keep your comments coming.

Also, be sure to keep following our blog where we’ll continue to publish many more interesting findings from these data.