Too often, the tragedy of children forced into prostitution is seen as a problem limited mostly to developing countries.
That means people in Chicago and the rest of Illinois tend not to notice the human trafficking occurring daily here, officials say.
“It’s happening to our own children — children born and raised right here in the city of Chicago,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, taking part in a campaign downtown Tuesday to raise awareness about the issue.
Chicago ranks third in the nation in terms of hotline calls to report human trafficking, Alvarez said.
Though Illinois became one of the first states in the nation in 2010 to pass comprehensive legislation to help tackle human trafficking, officials said Tuesday that they need a more vigilant public.
“The people who are behind this — the human traffickers — are some of the worst conceivable people you can imagine, but they are very smart,” said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
Pimps target vulnerable runaways, offering the false promise of a safe place to live. They use social media to recruit young people, they prowl high schools and they use other runaways to make the pitch, Dart said.
“It’s so important the public wakes up and realizes this is going on all around us,” Dart said.
Anyone who suspects human trafficking should call 911 or the state Department of Children and Family Services hotline at 1-800-25-ABUSE.