A number of girls in Chicago are prostituting themselves for basic necessities like food and shelter and some officials are turning a blind eye, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said Wednesday.
"[It’s] not just about human traffickers, but also concerning potentially corrupt public officials who protect them and their operations," she said in remarks to a congressional panel called "In Our Own Backyard: Child Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the United States," according to the Chicago Tribune.
Her office is gathering information on the traffickers and the officials who condone it, she said, but not the women who are used in the rackets.
The state’s attorney said she feels for the young women who come through her office. She doesn’t charge them with crimes, and instead considers them victims in need "support, services and a safe future."
Alvarez told the story of one girl who pleaded that her pimp not be charged because he bought her subway sandwiches whenever she wanted.
A survey of Chicago area women in the sex industry found that nearly three-quarters of them were initiated before the age of 18. Many of them were taken by human trafficking rings that operate in the city; some times existing gangs get into the lucrative business in lieu of other crimes.
“[Trafficking] fits well into their criminal repertoire," she said.
Sometimes the gangs use the young women for more than just prostitution, too.
Alvarez talked about an investigation in LaSalle County in which 17- and 18-year-old girls were smuggling heroin and crack in the bodies and distributing them to users.