Gov. Blagojevich Steps up Attack on Human Trafficking

1/14/2008

Illinois' Human Trafficking Hotline Now Averages Ten Calls a Month

In an effort to continue to fight a form of modern day slavery, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich observed the National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness. U.S. Senate Resolution 40, co-sponsored by Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), states that Congress supports the goals and ideals of observing the National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness on January 11 of each year and all other efforts to raise awareness of all opposition to human trafficking. In 2005, Governor Blagojevich became the first governor in the nation to launch a state-led assault on human trafficking.

"In a country that was founded on the principles of freedom, no one should be held or forced to work against their will," said Gov. Blagojevich. "Illinois has been a national leader in fighting this form of modern day slavery, passing laws to help prosecute offenders and creating a coalition to find and assist victims. On this day of awareness, we join Senator Obama, the Salvation Army and all of our partners in speaking out and saying we won't tolerate this despicable crime in our state."

The Illinois Rescue and Restore program will hold its third annual Outreach Day on April 26. Posters will be displayed across the state through partners that include the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Chicago Police Department, Illinois State Police, and many local community and faith-based social service agencies. Volunteers will target locations where a potential victim of trafficking or a first responder might see the message such as in highway rest stops, libraries, gas stations, health clinics, restaurants, laundromats, and retail stores. Various types of posters have been produced in English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

The Illinois Rescue and Restore campaign launched in 2005 by Gov. Rod Blagojevich and HHS is a coalition comprised of local agencies, state agencies, law enforcement and the faith community to raise awareness of the problem.

Additionally, the Chicago Salvation Army recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work with the Illinois Rescue and Restore initiative started by Gov. Blagojevich in 2005.

"In the past two years, more than 60 trafficking victims have been identified and helped through the Rescue and Restore program," said DHS Secretary Carol L. Adams, Ph.D. " National Awareness Day highlights our goal of increasing awareness and building a grassroots community response to Human Trafficking."

As one of the first states to enact anti-human trafficking legislation, Illinois has been at the forefront of addressing this serious human rights violation. It is critical to continue to build awareness of human trafficking in our communities, identify and protect victims, and ensure traffickers are being prosecuted. A Chicago organization, The International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA), is an established global leader in developing and implementing training and prevention programs to address the problem of human trafficking.

"For nearly a decade, IOFA has developed successful training programs for key responders including government leaders, law enforcement, community organizations, educational establishments, and service providers, and is dedicated to continue to doing so in Illinois as long as the problem persists," says Katherine Kaufka, Executive Director of IOFA.

The toll-free Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline, 1.888.3737.888 is designated to provide assistance to organizations and victims of trafficking. The hotline helps organizations and victims of trafficking by providing instant referrals to pre-screened aid organizations in their city. Hotline calls are referred to local service agencies equipped to provide initial services to trafficking victims.

"The hotline is currently averaging ten calls a month in Illinois," said DHS Assistant Secretary Grace Hou." We hope that with continued outreach and awareness that number will multiply and we will be able to identify and help victims."

To learn more about the campaign visit www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking for information and resources or to sign up to volunteer for the Outreach Day in April, go to the Illinois Rescue and Restore web site at www.dhs.state.il.us/projectsinitiatives/trafficking