Cook County sheriff gives updated human trafficking statistics: 'We're just overwhelmed'

ByRob Hughes WLS logo
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
Cook County sheriff on human trafficking: 'We're just overwhelmed'
The Cook County Sheriff's Office said that just during a two-week period this month 10 people were charged.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There was an update Monday on human trafficking in Cook County.

The Cook County Sheriff's Office said that just during a two-week period this month 10 people were charged.

Those charged include Christian Hurtado, 28, of Elgin; Daniel Hurtado, 26, of Elgin; Carlos Cooks, 53, of Elk Grove Village; Jaime Olvera-Lopez, 52; Angel Ojeda, 26, of Chicago; Martha Hurtado-Hernandez, 57, of Chicago; Rigoberto Parra, 46, of Aurora; Leticia Pena, 57; Erick Johnson, 24, of Chicago; and Marcus Brewer, 36, of Chicago.

They face charges including involuntary servitude, trafficking, promoting prostitution, child porn possession and dissemination of child porn.

Hurtado, Hurtado, Hurtado-Hernandez and Parra are also accused of operating brothels in Kane County.

Siblings Jaime Olvera-Lopez and Leticia Pena are accused of forcing a victim to work long hours for little money at a restaurant they owned.

"I can't emphasize enough to you. There is literally no end to the number of victims we come across. So we're just overwhelmed," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said.

Dart offered a snapshot of the problem on the hands of law enforcement agencies in the Chicago area and all over the United States. A flurry of arrests makes just a tiny dent in a big problem.

"Just to put it into some type of perspective here, the only reason those are the numbers is because that's how much personnel I have to put into this. If I had more, I'd be making thousands more, thousands more," Dart said.

Cook County sheriff's deputies gave an inside look at the undercover process for catching traffickers.

RELATED: New Illinois housing facility helps teen girl human trafficking survivors

There are hundreds of ads, updated almost every minute, on sites like ListCrawler and MegaPersonals, used by traffickers to take advantage of victims and turn a quick buck.

Everything is on the table on these sites, from trafficking, to prostitution, to child pornography, to name a few.

"If you were to go to any of their sites right now, there is literally no mystery of what's going on at those sites, none, none whatsoever," Dart said.

The sheriff believes any significant crackdown will need to come at the federal level to help hold these sites accountable.

"Clearly there is no conceivable way we're going to arrest our way out of this problem; it's not going to happen," Dart said.

He also challenged parents to keep an eye on their kids and really monitor how they use their phones and computers.

"There's this bizarre notion that somehow the kids and the young adults that are getting trafficked are from a different planet, nuh uh. We've had the entire spectrum, and it starts off so innocently," Dart said.

The sheriff said his office plans to reach out to some of these sites to see if they can work together to put a stop to trafficking-related crimes.

Without any federal help, it'll be up to each site as for how helpful they'll be.