(The Center Square) – The Cook County Sheriff’s Office hopes to crack down on human trafficking, child porn and prostitution after a wave of recent arrests over a two-week period highlighting the enormity of the problem.
Sheriff Tom Dart said it’s essential that not only the federal government, but internet sites and parents take action to fight this growing trend.
Dart recently held a news conference after six separate arrests, which included child pornography, prostitution and trafficking. One trafficking case involved a child. The Sheriff’s Office also acted relating to the operation of a bordello. Additionally, numerous women, who were being trafficked or could have been, responded to sheriff’s office ads, Dart said.
These cases are just a microcosm, he said, of all the activity nationwide. They were accomplished without a special effort, which he said points to the “persuasiveness” of the problem.
Although Cook County is a leader in fighting such crimes, he said, it’s more than law enforcement can tackle alone. Instead, it must be a three-pronged attack, involving the federal government, internet sites used to perpetuate these crimes, and parents as watchdogs of their children.
Dart stressed the need for internet companies to adopt protocols to prevent these crimes.
“They need to work on their sites whether it be filters or whatever … and they need to work with us in law enforcement when things aren’t right. They need to be doing this with passion because they’re interested in stopping this and not profiting out of it,” he said.
It’s not the dark web that is harboring these practices, he said, but sites that can be visited without a password. That’s why parents need to get more involved. He empowered parents to monitor their kids’ internet activity because these crimes can happen anywhere.
“Being a parent means you need to snoop around,” he said.
He noted an astronomical increase in child pornography, which law enforcement is also battling. In 1998, there were approximately 3,000 such images on the internet. This past year, the number has spiraled to 33 million, he said.
“It just shows you how exponentially all this stuff has grown,” Dart said.
It’s also a myth that such crimes don’t happen close to home.
“The vast majority, I’m talking 90-95% of the people that are involved in trafficking, are local people, trafficking local people, and it’s going on all around us,” Dart said.