Ending Violence in Lake County- A Call to Action
Over the summer, The Partnership for a Safer Lake County in conjunction with Leading Healthy Futures released a report attempting to document the occurrence and prevalence of violence in the county as well as the challenges in measuring and combating it.
A section of the report highlighted the prevalence of sex trafficking in the county. Researchers reached out to government officials including State Representative Barbara Wheeler, who reported the growing prevalence and lucrative nature of human trafficking in northern Illinois. Traffickers use the internet and legal businesses including massage parlors as facades. They locate in areas with zoning laws that do not heavily regulate these businesses (e.g. licensure, lighting, dress codes and hours of operation). It is estimated that 50 percent of sex trafficked victims are also involved in legal “sex-orientated” businesses (e.g. strip clubs, escort services, etc).
The report found sex trafficking occurred throughout the county but is concentrated in the cities of North Chicago, Waukegan, and Gurnee. These areas also have the highest rates of gang activity. The report identified research indicating that as much as half of the gangs in the Chicago area are involved in sex trafficking including the trafficking of minors.
In wealthier communities, such as Deerfield, Highland Park, and Lake Forest sex trafficking is more often conducted in massage parlors and other sexually related businesses including strip clubs, adult stores, escort services, and erotic spas. Many of these businesses use the internet including backpage.com and rubmap.com to advertise their services. Often the ads are made to look like the women are “working independently, when in fact they are victims of sex trafficking more often than is recognized or understood.” The report emphasized the lack of understanding and enforcement and outlined the need for more training for community leaders and first responders.
~ Gayle Nelson, JCAST Chicago Engagement and Development Director