Human trafficking is ‘alive and well’ in Winnebago and surrounding counties, victims’ advocates say

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Advocates for child victims of human trafficking spent Monday raising awareness for the issue on Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

Last year, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) investigated 239 allegations of human trafficking, but advocates say there are even more cases that go unreported.

The Rockford Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Prevention works to combat the epidemic all year ’round.

Manager Jennifer Cacciapaglia says everyone should become aware of the signs of human trafficking in children, saying that a trafficked child might have an adult speak for them, seem out of place given the time of day, or look either disheveled or overdressed, and not have an ID.

“Human trafficking is an epidemic across this country,” Cacciapaglia said. “It exists, as a business model, and it is alive and well in Winnebago County and every smaller rural county, anywhere you can hear my voice, where you can hear this news broadcast, it’s happening in your community.”

DCFS partners with the FBI, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center to help locate missing or runaway youth who are at risk of falling victim to human trafficking and ensure appropriate services and housing are in place when a child victim is rescued. 

Anyone who believes a child might be trafficked, or in danger of being trafficked, should immediately call 911 and the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-25-ABUSE (800-252-2873).

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