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News / City Life

How prostitution in Chicago has changed over the years

How prostitution in Chicago has changed over the years
Wikimedia Commons

Prostitution in America has changed a great deal since over the past few decades. We got to wondering about how the night-walking business has evolved in Chicago over the years. Thanks to the city's data portal, we can get a look at every reported arrest for prostitution since 2001.

Here's what we found:

• The stretch North Avenue in Wicker Park used to be a hotbed for hookers.

• Cicero Avenue near I-290 has remained the city's worst area for prostitution arrests.

• Washington Park has cleaned itself up, but Jackson Park was home to more than a dozen prostitution arrests last year.

• River North still has a high concentration of prostitution arrests, but the Hubbard Street red light district seems to have dissolved.


In 2001, there were 6,023 prostitution arrests in Chicago, a significant chunk of which were in neighborhoods that do not look anything like a red light district today. 


Prostitution arrests fell by nearly 75 percent between 2001 and 2014, and the stretches of reports out of Wicker Park all but disappeared. Even with the huge drop in arrests, sex trafficking remains a big problem in Chicago, especially in the city's south and west sides.