CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today commended the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) for joining the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Salvation Army and more than 100 partners statewide in the Illinois Rescue and Restore Human Trafficking Outreach Day. The event is the third of its kind held in Illinois and is designed to raise awareness about human trafficking and help rescue victims in Illinois.
The Illinois Rescue and Restore campaign launched in 2005 by Gov. Rod Blagojevich and HHS is a coalition comprised of local agencies, state agencies, law enforcement and the faith community to raise awareness of the problem and help victims. Illinois is the first state to form this unique and cutting edge collaboration with HHS, and is seen as a model for other states.
“Human trafficking is not only illegal, but it is a serious violation of a person’s rights as a human being,” said Governor Rod R. Blagojevich. “We want to make sure that victims of this crime know that there is help out there for them. We also want to make sure that anyone who is suspicious of trafficking activities call the hotline and report it.”
IDHS Assistant Secretary Grace Hou and hundreds of volunteers from every corner of the state canvassed neighborhoods and hung thousands of posters advertising the national human trafficking hotline, 888-373-7888, and encouraged the public to rescue and restore victims of human trafficking. The Outreach Day kicked off at the Salvation Army College of Officer Training at 700 West Brompton in Chicago.
“Human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world today,” said Hou. “This is a hidden problem in many communities across the state. Often times victims feel trapped and don’t know where to turn. We’re trying to reach victims so they know help is available.”
The U.S. government estimates that 14,000-17,500 people are trafficked into the United States annually. Victims are trafficked across international borders from such regions as Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Former Soviet Union and Africa to work in labor and sex trades.
“Efforts to eradicate trafficking go back to the early chapters of our history,” said Major Patty Richardson, director of Women’s Services of The Salvation Army. “It is unfortunate that this evil behavior still rears its ugly head. Now, The Salvation Army is part of a reviving movement for the abolition of trafficking. It is a pleasure to team up with the Illinois Department of Human Services on April 26 to raise awareness statewide about the evils of human trafficking.”
As part of Outreach Day, posters were displayed across the state through partners that include the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Chicago Police Department, Illinois State Police, and many local community and faith-based social service agencies. Volunteers will target locations where a potential victim of trafficking or a first responder might see the message such as in highway rest stops, libraries, gas stations, health clinics, restaurants, laundromats, and retail stores. Various types of posters have been produced in English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese.
Outreach is one of the five statewide goals for the Illinois Rescue and Restore coalition, along with training first responders, prosecuting offenders, coordinating services for victims, and collecting data on human trafficking.
The toll-free Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline, 1.888.373. 7888, is designated to provide assistance to organizations and victims of trafficking. The hotline helps organizations and victims of trafficking by providing instant referrals to pre-screened aid organizations in their city. Hotline calls are referred to local service agencies equipped to provide initial services to trafficking victims.
In 2005, Gov. Blagojevich signed The Trafficking of Persons and Involuntary Servitude Act, making it easier to prosecute human trafficking offenders and to assist victims.
The legislation established penalties for the offenses of involuntary servitude, sexual servitude of a minor and trafficking of persons for forced labor and services. Forcing a person into servitude ranges from a Class 4 to a Class X felony if kidnapping or injury is involved. The law also allows for restitution to pay back a victim for forced labor. Further, the law allows Illinois Department of Human Services to provide emergency victim services.