Experts increasingly are applying the label human trafficking to homegrown prostitution, reports the Associated Press. More legislators, police, and prosecutors across the country are starting to shift their view, too, reports the Associated Press. Increasingly, they are focusing on arresting traffickers and customers (pimps and johns) and on getting help for prostitutes. “It's almost similar to a domestic violence issue,” says Michael Anton, commander of the Cook County Sheriff's vice unit in Chicago. “A lot of (people) say, 'Well, they can just get out.' Well, it's not that easy.”
This year, Illinois became one of several states where prostitution is no longer a felony. It's also one of a growing number where a minor cannot be charged with prostitution, even as a misdemeanor. Cook County prosecutors have set up a human trafficking unit and use new state laws to put more traffickers in jail. Cook County Sheriff's officers run regular sting operations to ticket customers who proposition undercover female police officers, or who use popular escort websites. The johns must pay a fine. Police also impound their cars. “Dear John,” reads billboards the department has posted: “If You're Here To Solicit Sex, It Could Cost You $2,150. We're Teaming Up To Bust You.” The money funds a rehabilitation program for prostitutes. Anton’s vice unit officers have never arrested the same customer twice.