Sheriff considers Human Trafficking Task Force

Frank Abderholden
fabderholden@stmedianetwork.com | @abderholden
July 11 6:27 p.m.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have a Human Trafficking Task Force, but Sheriff Mark Curran said the idea is being discussed.

The educational seminars, Curran said, mark the department’s first step toward fighting back against sexual exploitation. Many sheriff’s investigators attended the human trafficking session Friday.

“We’ve got our guys training because we acknowledge sexual trafficking is going on in Lake County,” he said. “We’re kind of in the lead because we are the biggest agency and municipal police budgets have been cut. And we gladly work with other agencies.”

Ed Haras, deputy chief of the department’s criminal investigation unit, said they have a number of investigators focused on sexual exploitation cases. The group works closely with the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office and its Children Advocacy Center and Cyber Crimes Unit.

One of the strategies is to work with known prostitutes to take down the chain of command.

“That’s something we need to improve on,” Haras said.

The department has investigators who pose as 14 year olds to target sexual predators. The Cyber Crimes Unit also posts pictures of females to track the “johns” who try to hire them.

Chris Covelli is a detective under Haras’ command, who aggressively works on these cases full-time.

“We’re arresting someone almost every three weeks for child pornography,” he said.

“In the past year we’ve had six children in protective custody with DCFS,” Covelli said, referring to the Department of Children and Family Services. “It’s not just in Lake County, it’s everywhere. We’re making a dent.”

Those who suspect abuse are encouraged to call 800-25-Abuse or 800-252-2873, a tip line of the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children.

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