Governor Pat Quinn today signed a new law to help law enforcement agencies crack down on human traffickers. The new law strengthens prosecutors' ability to go after pimps while offering greater protection and help for survivors. The legislation passed unanimously in the Illinois Senate and House, with the support of human rights advocates and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.
"This tragic trade should not exist in the State of Illinois," Governor Quinn said. "Today we are giving prosecutors new tools, trafficking survivors new hope and those who break the law new reasons to fear the long arm of justice."
House Bill 5278, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago), increases protection for those forced into sexual servitude, gives authorities new power to apprehend traffickers and boosts resources for survivors' support services. Such services empower survivors - who are often runaways, abused children or immigrants - to start fresh.
"The goal of this new law is simple: to give prosecutors a bigger arsenal in the war on those who profit from another human being's suffering," Rep. Cassidy said.
"Pimps have gotten more sophisticated in their schemes and tactics," State's Attorney Alvarez said. "The sexual services of our young people are not for sale. This is a powerful new law and we will not hesitate to use it."
The new law amends the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, Predator Accountability Act, Juvenile Court Act of 1987 and others. It redefines "serious harm" to include non-physical forms of coercion, such as psychological intimidation or withholding a passport. The law also broadens the term "involuntary servitude" and extends the statute of limitations to prosecute those who exploit minors. In addition, it strengthens the Illinois Safe Children Act of 2010 by changing the formula for distributing the fee for impounding perpetrators' vehicles. Instead of distributing the $1,000 fee to local governments, $500 will go to the arresting law enforcement agency and $500 will go to provide support services to sex trade survivors.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center reports that Illinois generated the 5th highest number of calls to its hotline. Current anti-trafficking laws fail to address some tactics used by pimps, such as non-physical intimidation.
"Traffickers often use lies and manipulation to bring people into the sex trade. This bill strengthens Illinois law in a way that will enable prosecutors to bring these traffickers to justice," said Lynne Johnson, director of policy and advocacy for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE). CAASE is the lead agency for End Demand Illinois, a campaign to refocus law enforcement's attention on pimps, johns and traffickers, while proposing supportive services for people impacted by the sex trade.
Other proponents include the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Polaris Project, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Catholic Conference of Illinois, National Association of Social Workers -- Illinois Chapter, Protestants for the Common Good, Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 8th Day Center for Justice, Salvation Army, YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago and others. The law is effective Jan. 1, 2013.