The Madison County Record Feb. 15, 2016, 3:23pm


Dear Attorney General Lynch, Deputy Attorney General Yates, and FBI Director Comey:

During August of this year and again in October Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois wrote to your office about the problem of sex trafficking on the Internet. In his letters Sen. Kirk stated that the website, Backpage.com (Backpage), facilitates and brokers illegal commercial sex transactions through anonymous, on-line advertisements, including advertisements involving child sex trafficking victims and that Backpage is at the center of a thinly disguised prostitution network. Additionally, in his letters Sen. Kirk called for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to pursue Backpage and its long time owners, Michael Lacey, and Jim Larkin, in the same aggressive manner that DOJ pursued the sex trafficking website MyRedBook.com, and its owner Eric “Red” Omuro.

The undersigned Illinois police commissioners and law enforcement officers fully endorse and support Sen. Kirk’s position. Backpage is the leading sex trafficking website and DOJ should pursue Backpage in the same manner that DOJ pursued MyRedBook.com.

The officers in our police department see the result of sex trafficking, the damaged families and the traumatized children who were advertised for commercial sex on Internet websites – Backpage most prominently. On behalf of the sex trafficking victims, the undersigned law enforcement professionals call on DOJ to fully enforce the criminal statutes designed to combat sex trafficking, including Sen. Kirk’s Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act (SAVE Act) and Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which President Obama signed into law in May of this year. We note that the SAVE Act was adopted by a vote of 97-2 in the Senate and makes it a federal felony under 18 U.S.C. 1591 to advertise a minor for commercial sex acts, knowing that the victim is a minor.

We agree with Sen. Kirk that sex trafficking networks are criminal enterprises and that there should be no under estimating the traffickers’ ruthlessness. The traffickers are not arranging dates between consenting adults. To the contrary, the traffickers brutally abuse their victims using violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to compel their victims to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. Large numbers of minor sex trafficking victims are sold via the Internet, which functions as a modern slave auction where traffickers can anonymously advertise the children and their commercial sexual services, while further exploiting them through child pornography. Cook County Sheriff, Thomas Dart, has estimated that in April 2014 alone, Backpage published more than 1.4 million adult services ads and made at least $9 million. Purchasers of commercial sex use online forums to review their experiences and spread information about how to avoid law enforcement detection. Gangs of national significance operate many of the sex trafficking networks. Recent research on sex trafficking in Chicago has found that traffickers yearly earn from $150,000 to $500,000 from their crimes.

The DOJ must bring to a halt the nation’s sex trafficking enterprises. The law enforcement agencies we represent will cooperate with the DOJ and assist in every possible way. We urge you to bring the full weight of the DOJ against the nation’s sex trafficking networks and websites that facilitate the selling of children.

DOJ must use every applicable provision of the US Code, including the SAVE Act and the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, to investigate, pursue, and when appropriate, prosecute individuals and Internet websites that engage in the despicable conduct of advertising minors for sex.

We know President Obama believes that sex trafficking is equivalent to modern day slavery. We know that one of DOJ’s top priorities is to bring human and sex traffickers to justice. We share President Obama’s and DOJ’s deep concern about these issues. We are prepared to work with President Obama and DOJ to bring an end to sex trafficking and the websites that facilitate sex trafficking.

We hope soon to hear from your office.

Sincerely,

Adams County Sheriff Brent Fischer

DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott

Jefferson County Sheriff Travis Allen

Kendall County Undersheriff Harold Martin

LaSalle County Sheriff Thomas Templeton

Macon County Sheriff Thomas Schneider

Madison County Sheriff John Lakin

McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage

Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle

Peoria County Sheriff Michael McCoy

St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson

Stephenson County Sheriff David Snyders

Whiteside County Sheriff Kelly Wilhelm

Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana

Bloomington City Police Chief Brendan Heffner

Carbondale City Police Chief Jeff Grubbs

Darnville City Police Chief Larry Thomason

Dixon City Police Chief Danny Langloss

East Moline City Police Chief John Reynolds

LaSalle City Police Chief Robert Uranich

Marion City Police Chief Dawn Tondini

Peoria City Police Chief Jerry Mitchell

Pekin City Police Chief John Dossey

Rochelle City Police Chief Eric Higby

Peru City Police Chief Doug Bernabei

Rockton City Police Chief Steve Dickson

Rockford City Police Assistant Deputy Chief Doug Pann

Rockford Park District Police Chief Theo Glover

South Beloit City Police Chief Dean Stiegmeier

Rock Valley College Police Chief Joe Drought

Sycamore City Police Chief Glenn Theriault

Sterling City Police Chief Ron Pothoff

Winnebago Village Police Chief Todd Stockburger

Loves Park Police Chief Rodney L. Scott

Urbana City Police Chief Patrick Connolly

Ottowa City Police Chief Brent Roalson

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U.S. Senator Mark Kirk
230 S Dearborn St
Chgo, IL 60604

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