[dropcap]P[/dropcap]artnering with the Dreamcatcher Foundation to fight human trafficking, the Chicago Park District held workshops over the past month with teens to create discussion and prevent the illegal trade in Chicago.
The weekly meetings held in February throughout Chicago neighborhoods sought to educate youths on the dangers and reality of human tracking in urban areas, said Chicago Park District Spokesperson Jessica Maxey-Faulkner.
Human trafficking is a major issue in the U.S. that sees millions of young people victimized every year.
The Dreamcatcher Foundation estimates that there are 27 million people that are human tracked in the entire world each year. The foundation estimates there are 16,000 girls from Chicago who are trafficked annually.
In fact, according to a study done by the University of Illinois, the state has some of the highest rates of human trafficking in the country.
In 2012, the Cook County Sherriff’s office announced a “National Day of John Arrests,” that took place over 10 days and arrested 314 sex buyers in Illinois. The initiative involved 20 agencies and saw 46 arrests made in Chicago.
Despite arrests and policy changes, the illegal trade has not dissipated and young people are still at risk for being some of the main targets. The UIC study eludes to many Chicago gangs turning to illegal trafficking instead of drugs because of higher profitability.
A single trafficked woman in the U.S. can cost as much as $250,000, according to the report.
For these reasons and more, the meetings have been drawing a crowd interested in learning more about the dangers of human tracking.
“I heard that the last one had about 40 teens attend,” said Maxey-Faulkner.
Workshops for teens organized by the Chicago Park District have had speakers and victims of trafficking speak to the youth and help guide them on better tactics in dealing with strangers. This includes how to better guard against predators on social media and the Internet, said Maxey-Faulkner.
“The goal of the project is to educate teens on the growth of human trafficking,” she said.
One of the problems in stopping human trafficking in Chicago is a bureaucratic issue, according to the Dreamcatcher website.
This includes a lack of sustainable housing for young females in need of counseling after escaping prostitution, economic empowerment for low-income families and social services designed to help human trafficking victims trying to move away from violence and psychological trauma, reads the website.
The organization did not return messages left for comment at the time of this articles publishing.
Ultimately, the workshops are building up to two events in the spring. The first event is an art and dance workshop that takes place at Austin Town Hall, located at 5610 W. Lake St. on April 3.
The second event is a human trafficking walk-a-thon on June 13. A route for the walkathon has yet to be announced.
Those looking to report any incidences of human trafficking or prostitution are encouraged to contact the Dreamcatcher Foundation or Teens in the Park at either www.thedreamcatcherfoundation.org or www.teensinthepark.com.