Police Enforcement of Sex Work Criminalization Laws in an “End Demand” City: The Persistence of Quality-of-Life Policing and Seller Arrests

Rosentel, Kris, Charlie M. Fuller, Shannon M. E. Bowers, Amy L. Moore, and Brandon J. Hill. ‘Police Enforcement of Sex Work Criminalization Laws in an “End Demand” City: The Persistence of Quality-of-Life Policing and Seller Arrests’. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26 April 2021. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01910-9.

Abstract

The purported goals of commercial sex work criminalization policies in the United States have shifted over the past two decades as local jurisdictions have adopted End Demand reforms. These reforms aim to refocus arrest from individuals who sell sexual services to buyers and facilitators, representing a departure from the quality-of-life, nuisance-focused approach of the late twentieth century. This article presents a case study examining enforcement of commercial sex laws in Chicago, a city that has been heralded as a leader in End Demand reforms. Our case study utilized annualized arrest statistics from 1998 to 2017 and individual arrest reports (n = 575) from 2015 to 2017. Commercial sex arrests by the Chicago Police Department have declined substantially over the past two decades, falling 98.4% from its peak. However, our analysis suggests that sellers of sexual services continue to face the heaviest burden of arrest (80.5%) and officers generally continue to approach commercial sex as a quality-of-life issue. We argue that this divergence between the goals and implementation of End Demand are the result of three institutional factors: street-level bureaucracy, logics of spatial governmentality, and participatory security. Our results suggest that the ideals of End Demand may be incompatible with the institutional realties of urban policing.

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