Patrick Elwood goes inside Cook County`s Missing Minors Unit - New York News

Exclusive: Patrick Elwood goes inside Cook County`s Missing Minors Unit

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Every year, thousands of Cook County teens go missing. They are victims of their upbringing; most coming from troubled homes and placed in foster care. Up until recently, no one would go looking for them.

But before it's too late, Cook County sheriff's officers are out to find them and out to help them. They invited FOX 32's Patrick Elwood to take an exclusive look at the Missing Minors Unit--the only of its kind in the nation.

At the first house they visit, officers are looking for a teenage boy.

"We are looking for a young male minor he went on the run. These are family members," Sheriff's Detective Dion Trotter says pointing to the house behind him. "They're gonna give them a place to stay. They're trying tohelp him as much as possible."

Detective Trotter is head of the unit. Under Sheriff Tom Dart's direction, these officers help these kids who can't help themselves.

"They're running away from group homes and nobody was looking for them, so we took it upon ourselves to get very involved and going out and finding these kids," Dart explains. "They're kids whose parents walked away from them, harmed them, whatever."

Furthermore, Sheriff Dart says he believes some foster or group homes don't report the kids missing just to keep collecting the money from the state.

Since its creation 10 months ago, the unit has rescued 257 minors; most of them teens and most of them females. They are teens who have been dealt a bad hand and figure they are better off on their own. It's a predictable scenario.

Often times, they will wind up on the street, get befriended by a pimp, get hooked on drugs, and start prostituting. There is often a life of misery and sometimes, they end up dead long before their time.

Detective Trotter says for a variety of reasons, these teens just don't want to stay at a group home or in foster care, so they'll end up at a what's called a trap house.

Basically, in certain neighborhoods you'll have a blighted area where the gangs pretty much take over an abandoned building or take over an apartment," Trotter says. "They sell drugs out there. Most of the girls can't sell drugs, so what ends up happening, okay you're part of our team, we want you to service the guys and with human trafficking, that's big."

At another stop, they are able to find a 15-year-old girl who's been moving around staying with friends but still going to school.

Now that she's in protective custody, the first stop is to see Lisa Cunningham--an intervention specialist, who is clean and sober now after spending nearly 30 on the streets. She relates well to these kids!

"You wouldn't tell that I've been on drugs or even lead the life of walking the streets or being prostituted, anything like that," peer specialist Lisa Cunningham tells FOX 32. "Until I really communicate with them, the way they communicate, then you can see the trust starting to come in."

After talking to Lisa, Sheriff Dart's missing minors team will help to find better home for this young lady in the hopes that she can leave her troubled past behind and begin a life filled with hope and love.

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