U.S. Senator Mark Kirk and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez highlighted the need for a federal-local partnership to end sex trafficking in the United States, including efforts to stop websites like Backpage.com from facilitating the trafficking.
"The president said it time to call human trafficking what it really is, modern day slavery," said Sen. Kirk.
The senator added Illinois was the first state in the nation to ratify the 13th amendment that abolished slavery. He said we have a unique role in our country to put an end to human trafficking and we can start by putting an end to sex ads on websites like Backpage.com. Owned by Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin of Phoenix , Ariz., Backpage.com is responsible for more than 70 percent of prostitution advertising in the United States.
"These are the two men most responsible for human trafficking in the U.S. Michael Lacey said he has admitted to making $31 million off this business," said Sen. Kirk.
The Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act, federal legislation Sen. Kirk will introduce this week in the Senate will allow the federal government to prosecute Backpage.com and any other website that facilitates the victimization of children through commercial advertising, and said it is time to bring Lacey and Larkin to justice.
The state's attorney said her office drafted and passed the Illinois Safe Children's Act aimed at protecting children who are victims of sex trafficking, and since the law passed her office, has charged 93 defendants with trafficking and related charges at the state level.
"The internet has become a playground for pedophiles and sex traffickers. They advertise and sell children 24 hours a day without any fear or accountability," said Alvarez. "They earn their profits from criminal activity and turn a blind eye to our children who are being pimped, raped and tortured."
Alvarez and Kirk are pushing for the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act because they say current law protects the sex trafficking websites and their owners from prosecution because they exist online.
Eyewitness News' calls to Backpage.com went unanswered.