7th Street and Broadway is an area of southeast Rockford prone to the exploitation of women and sex trafficking. This past April, eleven men and one woman were arrested for human trafficking.
“What we’re finding is that in most cases the ladies that are involved in these situations are forced to do this,” said Rockford Police Assistant Deputy Chief Mike Dalke.
According to the Rockford Area Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (RAASE), the Forest City is ranked second in the state for human trafficking. That statistic is why RAASE is teaming up with local law enforcement to educate residents on what’s happening in their town.
“It’s an element of as far as I’m concerned, one of the issues of violent crime that we have and it’s one of the pieces of the pie that we have to work on to bring down the violent crime and I think that adds to it,” said Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana.
One strategy used to combat sex trafficking that police use is to target the men, rather than the women. “From the enforcement level what we refer to as the end demand strategy, and that is really to end the demand for prostitution,” Dalke said. “So without the ‘john’s’ coming to Rockford, we wouldn’t have a sex trafficking issue,” he added.
For the women victimized by the sex trade police are looking to provide resources to help them escape. “Reaching out for the women, being advocates trying to get them the help, trying to get them off of drugs, and trying to find a safe place for them,” Caruana said.
Deanna Lacny of Rock House Kids, a not for profit that helps low income children, is in the heart of Rockford’s sex trafficking area. Her mission is to help young women before it’s too late.”We’ve had the Pregnancy Care Center, we’ve had people come in here and talk to them about sex and protection, and what they should be doing about abstinence so that way they don’t fall into doing that,” Lacny added.