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Melinda McMichael says during her 10 years selling sex in the Chicago neighborhood of Englewood, she was just focused on surviving. I would walk away, beaten, raped and robbed and go back out there and I would not call the police.
McMichael said she would never consider calling the police, because the cops in Englewood harassed and mistreated her. The month study finds that Chicago police are focusing enforcement efforts almost exclusively on people selling sex, rather than sex buyers or traffickers. The report released Monday by the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation found that even as prostitution-related arrests and tickets have declined in Chicago, the share of those arrests and tickets against sex sellers has gone up.
The study also details claims of sexual abuse and harassment by police officers and a system-wide failure to identify and help victims of sex trafficking. The advocacy group is calling on interim Chicago Police Superintendent Charlie Beck and Mayor Lori Lightfoot to make major changes to how prostitution is policed, and how police officers interact with people selling sex. The report is based on public data, courtroom observation and interviews with attorneys, prosecutors and people like McMichael, who have been ticketed or arrested for selling sex.
According to the report, in Chicago police made only three arrests for pimping, compared to arrests for selling sex. McMichael said to pursue cases against pimps or traffickers, police would need help from women working on the streets, and that would require trust that is not there.
The Chicago Police Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment. McMichael has been off the street and clean for two years now. She works at the Haymarket Center, helping mothers who struggle with addiction and she talks with a lot of women who have sold sex in Chicago.