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Human Trafficking Crack down

6/12/2019, 3:03 p.m.
State Rep. John Connor, D-Lockport, is combatting human trafficking by passing stricter penalties on businesses that profit from exploitation and ...

State Rep. John Connor, D-Lockport, is combatting human trafficking by passing stricter penalties on businesses that profit from exploitation and new education programs for law enforcement professionals and hotel employees who are likely to encounter it.

"Human trafficking often hides in plain sight, and can be right in front of us," Connor said, "but it thrives on support from businesses that don't ask questions. New legislation will enforce penalties not just on the predators exploiting victims, but the businesses that benefit from them. Right now, there is a financial incentive for some businesses to look the other way. It's time to get rid of that motivation and punish anyone who still thinks it's ok to earn money by deliberately turning a blind eye to these predators."

Connor helped pass Senate Bill 1890, an extensive bill which combats human trafficking on several fronts. First, it creates a training program for all law enforcement agencies in Illinois to ensure they are ready to recognize and fight the problem. "I received training on human trafficking when I was a prosecutor, and it really opened my eyes to the way people are exploited when they are vulnerable."

Next, it extends the statute of limitations for adult human trafficking to 25 years. Finally, it establishes penalties of up to $100,000 for any businesses that benefit from human trafficking or other types of involuntary servitude. The bill also creates the Lodging Establishment Human Trafficking Recognition Training Act, which requires hotel business owners to hold regular trainings for employees to recognize and report signs of human trafficking. "All law enforcement needs to do is be notified to rescue victims of human trafficking, but if employers and employees don't know what to look for, it can go unnoticed."

Since 2007, 4,578 cases of human trafficking have been reported in Illinois, with likely tens of thousands more incidents that do not reach the authorities. "Hotels are one of the problem areas. Too often, human traffickers get away with holding people against their will by coercing them into hotel rooms and keeping them there before shipping them off to the highest bidder. We have to prepare hotel workers for this problem and take away any shelter human traffickers have."