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Web site puts `johns' on the spot

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People seeking prostitutes in Chicago already face arrest and impoundment of their cars if they are caught, but now they risk something else: public embarrassment on a city Web site.

The city has begun posting the names and photographs of alleged "johns" on the Police Department's Web site for all to see, including spouses, children, employers, friends and neighbors, Mayor Richard Daley announced Tuesday.

"I don't have to tell anyone how fast information travels on the Internet," Daley said.

The mayor brushed aside possible constitutional concerns about identifying people accused, but not convicted, of crimes and asserted that the public good outweighs objections by people collared by police.

Some social critics contend prostitution is a victimless crime, but solicitation "can ruin a neighborhood" and takes a terrible toll on the providers of sexual services, Daley said.

"Its victims are, first of all, the prostitutes themselves," Daley said. "It is estimated that between 16,000 and 25,000 women are involved in prostitution in Chicago over the course of a year. Most of them were victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence from a very young age.

"Once they become prostitutes, they're subject to even more violence, abuse and possible death from their pimps and their customers. They spend their lives surrounded by criminals and drugs and [are] vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases."

The names and partial addresses of 21 people, along with police photographs of 20 of them, were listed at http://www.chicagopolice.org/ps/list.aspx on Tuesday. Police Sgt. Robert Cargie said that there was no specific timetable for removing the photos, but that as the Web site gets more photos, they will be rotated.

"The photos won't be up there for the rest of their lives," Cargie said.

Most of the suspects are from Chicago, but officials said they will send letters to the hometown police departments of non-Chicagoans.

Chicago is not the first city that has attempted to use shame as a deterrent to prostitution.

"Operation John Be Gone" in Akron, Ohio, "draws the most hits on our Web site by far"--100,000 in its first year of operationsaid Police Lt. Rick Edwards.

"The first thing attorneys for these guys say is, `What can we do about the picture on the Web site?'" Edwards said. "Their clients are willing to do more time and pay bigger fines rather than having their photo [on display]."

No deals are cut with lawyers over the photos, Edwards said, and the public postings have "cut down on the trolling in neighborhoods that used to draw prostitutes."

Denver publicizes information about people convicted of soliciting prostitutes on a community-access television station, and Oakland puts the faces of the convicted on billboards.

That differs from Chicago, where suspects only have to be arrested, not convicted, to have their faces posted.

Police in Kansas City, Mo., previously posted the images of people they arrested on a community-access channel, despite concerns by some in the department.

Some suspects with access to attorneys could get the charges thrown out or reduced before morning, which meant their imagescould not be shown legally, said Kansas City Police Sgt. Brad Dumit

"To be honest, we were very, very lucky," he said. "We did it for almost four years, and I think we were extremely lucky that we didn't get caught in a legal bind."

The Kansas City program, which has been put on hold as the department reorganizes, did not reduce the number of prostitution-related arrests, according to police.

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