Cook County Had First Sex Trafficking Conviction Under Dart's New Initiative - New York News

Cook County Had First Sex Trafficking Conviction Under Dart's New Initiative

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It's not something you think can happen in your city, let alone your own neighborhood. In fact, thoughts of sex trafficking might take your mind to a far away place like one you saw in the movies or on TV.

However, recent statistics show a much darker picture when it comes to sex trafficking in Chicago. One human services agency estimates more than 6,000 at-risk children are trafficked every year in Cook County alone.

Part One: Sex Trafficking Growing in Chicago >>

FOX Chicago News spoke to one victim, a Chicago teenager who was forced to act as a sex slave in a southern suburb for three years.

To protect her identity, we are calling her Brittany. She told Jan her nightmare began when she was kidnapped in her own neighborhood after running away from home. Brittany was just 16 years old and just had a heated argument with her parents.

"I didn't want to be there. I wanted to go home. I wanted to get away from it I couldn't believe it was happening to me. A lot of it was prayer to keep me going, to keep me strong, to keep me alive."

For three years, Brittany said she was raped daily and chained to a bed.

"If the john was to go into my room, he would come into my room, majority of the time I was fighting. So the john would walk out the room come back in the room with the pimp or one of the other guys. They would hold me down and inject me with some type of drug. I don't really remember much about those times. Just the pressure of the john raping me," she said.

Brittany's story is unimaginable, but Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has seen and investigated similar cases. He remembered one case in the south suburbs where he says there were four or five of girls in different hotel rooms and another woman who was in contact with the pimp, acted like an air traffic controller directing the johns to different rooms and different times.

Dart said the woman collecting the money would then deposit it into an account through an ATM making it harder for investigators to catch the real perpetrator, the person luring the young teens and advertising the services. Catching these perpetrators has become much more complicated and accelerated by the internet.

“The heart of the trafficking here is so isolated right now where before we used to have direct contact, where we'd see someone on the street. Now, with the Internet, has made it so difficult," Dart said.

Cook County had its first human trafficking convictions under a new initiative this year.

Tyrelle and Myrelle Lockett, 18, both pleaded guilty in February after they were busted operating a sex trafficking ring that forced young teens to perform sex acts for money in the south suburbs. Investigators said the twin brothers took pictures of young women and put them on the internet where they created ads similar to a dating site.

In the Lockett's case, the victims were forced into motel rooms in Lansing where they had sex with men while the brothers waited nearby to collect money from the johns. They got caught after an undercover agent answered one of their ads on the internet. Both are now serving four year prison terms.

For victims like Brittany, it may take a lifetime to recover. She said it took her about a year before she could go outside without feeling scared.

"To this day every time I walk past a man I still feel like they're looking at me, thinking of ways to violate me, thinking of ways they are going to hurt me," Brittany said.

Many victims of the sex trade don't find help right away. Organizations like Mercy Ministries have rescued thousands of sex trafficking victims across the country and helped them find hope.

Heidi Stevens is a volunteer for this organization. She said she has seen some girls that are so traumatized they are sitting in the fetal position unable to communicate. With some help, she also said she has seen girls "get completely restored and get an education."

Mercy Ministries works with law enforcement agencies to house young victims and help report sex crimes. Stevens said we can all help by watching places like truck stops or hotels. She said both places are often used for sex trafficking operations.

"We'll often check into a hotel and maybe there's a young girl with a man and we don't ask for identification or check that young girl is willing to be with that man," Stevens said.

Brittany is still in recovery, and now works with the Dreamcatchers Foundation helping other young women who are victims of sex trafficking.
 

The US Dept of Justice has a list of resources on their website .

The public can also report human trafficking tips to this hotline: The Salvation Army STOP IT Program at (877) 606-3158.

Anyone with information can email tips directly to the Cook County States Attorney Human Trafficking Initiative at httaskforce@cookcountyil.gov .

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