ROCKFORD (WREX) — In the last month, Governor J.B. Pritzker has signed two bills into law supporting and assisting survivors of human trafficking.
The FBI says human trafficking is the third largest criminal activity in the world. Rockford ranks tenth in the United States and second in the state when it comes to trafficking victims. According to advocates for Rockford’s Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, or RAASE, one reason why Rockford is high on those lists is because of its location in the Midwest, making it a central hub for human trafficking.
“We know that it’s happening in every hotel in Rockford and without training, there’s just never going to be any progress to battle trafficking here,” the co-founder of RAASE, Lori Johnson, says.
On Aug. 23, the Governor signed one of the new bills into law. That bill, Bill HB3101, creates the Lodging Establishment Human Trafficking Recognition Training Act, which requires hotels and motels to train employees to recognize, observe and report human trafficking. The Department of Human Services and the Department of Justice will help hotels and motels develop guidelines for training requirements. RAASE says there are a number of red flags employees should look for when they feel guests are acting suspicious.
According to RAASE’s lead advocate, Brittney Fry, those red flags include, “lots of traffic in a room, so in and out, paying in cash, so it’s unidentifiable who is renting the room, and a lot of the time, sex trafficking is paired with drug use.”
The law expressly states new employees must be trained within the first six months of the new employee’s start date.
Johnson expressed her support for the law.
“I think it’s imperative that every hotel and motel staff member understand what it [human trafficking] looks like and they should understand how to respond to it, Johnson says.
In addition to HB3101, the Governor also signed another bill, HB2118. That bill provides medical care and support, food and money for foreign-born survivors of the sex trade from a state-funded program. The program expired on June 30, but was extended with a new end date of June 2022.
But Johnson says RAASE doesn’t typically come into contact with many foreign-born survivors for one important reason.
“Many of our referrals come to us through law enforcement or through the court system, so we are fairly certain they’re all domestically-born,” Johnson said.
However, both Johnson and Fry want to remind you that human trafficking can happen to anyone, no matter your age, gender or sexual preference. Anyone can be a target.