Sex Crime Arrests Evidence of Spreading Human Trafficking Problem
Jan 19, 2015 08:49PM
● By Steven Jack
The news last week that eight men, including one from Oswego, had been arrested and charged in Aurora with sexual crimes relating to the trafficking of underage girls brings renewed local light to a growing problem.
With the arrests, Aurora police said this type of sting operation was the first time components of human sexual trafficking were used to lure johns. Undercover officers worked since December with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, posing online as pimps offering minors for sex at an Aurora hotel.
Evidence of the pervasiveness may be found in that the Chicago metro area is ranked fourth out of 20 human trafficking zones currently monitored by the U.S. Department of Justice.
What about Oswego?
While these types of arrests are rare in Oswego, the village isn’t immune to trafficking activity. McKenzie Carson, of Bolingbrook, was convicted in December 2013 with the help of Oswego Police for the human trafficking of four women, including a minor.
Carson forced the women to perform sexual acts with johns in exchange for drugs. He had been arrested in Oswego in 2010 during a sting operation.
“I remember testifying at his trial,” said Police Chief Jeff Burgner. “We worked in conjunction with the FBI on that case, and it really shows why it’s so important to follow through and look beyond just the people who are showing up for these encounters. So many of these women are actually being held captive.”
Burgner said Oswego Police haven’t conducted a prostitution sting operation in town for a couple of years, but officers receive regular training on human trafficking and know its signs.
Oswego Police also work to stay ahead of the technology used by human traffickers.
“So much of this is about knowing where these arrangements are being set up and watching the different websites,” Burgner said.
A local fight
One man who has made it his mission to combat human trafficking is Chris Baker, founder and president of INK 180 Ministries — the Oswego organization that works to cover up tattoos of trafficking victims inked with barcode tattoos.
Recently he’s been traveling across the country, speaking to organizations about the second fastest growing crime in the United States.
“Human trafficking is everywhere,” Baker said in reaction to the latest arrests in Aurora.
In addition to his work last year in getting a bill passed into Illinois law that lowers the age at which human trafficking victims may legally have tattoos covered up, Baker has also been working on more legislation that will toughen sentencing guidelines for pimps and johns.
Charges for soliciting and promoting prostitutes can range from a misdemeanor to a Class 3 felony with minimum sentencing to fines or up to five years in prison.
“(We are trying to put) more teeth into the punishment to make it more of a deterrent instead of a slap on the wrist,” Baker said.