Categories for City Government

City of Chicago and Phanke Chicago Announce “It’s Wrong, Know Your Rights” Campaign

July 11, 2021

CHICAGO – The City of Chicago today announced the City’s first-ever campaign to address and raise awareness about human trafficking and exploitation at a citywide level. This new campaign, “It’s Wrong, Know Your Rights” is aimed at ensuring that victims and survivors who have experienced human trafficking or workplace exploitation understand their rights and see that there are vital resources and services available to them. This targeted and powerful awareness campaign was created through the City and Pahnke Chicago’s pro-bono partnership, “By Chicago, For Chicago”, and will ensure that individuals who have experienced exploitation and/or human trafficking understand their rights by using public signage in high-traffic areas of Chicago.

“People who are currently experiencing or are survivors of human trafficking and exploitation need to know they are not alone, and their City is by their side,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “This new campaign will significantly enhance our ability to funnel resources to these individuals, get them out of dangerous situations and prevent others from succumbing to the same fate. Thanks to efforts like these, we will not only be able to protect the lives and safety of those most vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation, but also provide them and survivors with the opportunity they deserve to find stability and healing.”

This campaign will provide the public with information about their rights and the critical City and nonprofit resources services available to them by utilizing digital billboards, public transit signage and a newly created microsite available here. “It’s Wrong, Know Your Rights” will also serve as a catalyst for the ongoing work by Mayor Lightfoot to fight human trafficking on all levels, which has included the City’s first-ever coordinated strategy to combat human trafficking at the citywide level. The strategy includes training all City employees about how to identify and properly address signs of exploitation and trafficking, as well as significant policy changes to better identify, protect, and serve survivors of human trafficking and exploitation.

“Pahnke Chicago is honored to partner with the City of Chicago on what is some of the most important work of our careers,” said Susan Betteridge, Executive Creative Director and Partner at Pahnke Chicago. “The insight that victims of human trafficking often don’t know what they’re experiencing is illegal was the impetus for this forthright creative approach. ‘It’s Wrong. Know Your Rights’ educates victims by illustrating some of the complex realities of human trafficking in simple terms and empowers them to take action.”

“Human trafficking and labor exploitation are a pervasive problem in our society. This campaign helps raise awareness and provide resources to individuals whose rights are violated,” said Catherine Longkumer, Managing Attorney at Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services. “I commend Mayor Lightfoot and her team for acknowledging the problem of human trafficking and their commitment to use the city’s resources to help find solutions.”

Starting today, digital billboards will be visible from Chicago’s expressways. There will also be digital signage throughout the city at over 50 different locations, in both English and Spanish. Additional signage will also be posted on CTA trains, buses, and at bus shelter locations, and will also be in both English and Spanish. These messages will be aimed at grabbing the attention of pedestrians and drivers and will include both the City’s website where anyone can go to better understand their rights and what exploitation or human trafficking can look like, as well as to the National Human Trafficking hotline.


Get the downloadable PDF from Chicago’s Office of the Mayor

Houston Now Requires Hotels To Train Employees To Spot Human Trafficking

June 29, 2020

Houston hotels and motels must train their employees on how to spot human trafficking and contact law enforcement under an ordinance approved by city council Wednesday.

The mandate also requires the businesses keep records of the training, which they must produce within three days upon request by the city. All 524 Houston hotels and motels also must post signs that list common indicators of trafficking, along with phone numbers for local and national law enforcement and other information.

To read the full story by Dylan McGuinness on The Houston Chronicle: Click Here

Lawsuit Claims Detroit, Ann Arbor Hotels Ignored Signs Of Human Trafficking

February 24, 2020

A lawsuit laid out grisly details. The survivor in this lawsuit was 17 years old when she was first kidnapped (by a stranger at school), driven to a hotel and imprisoned there. Her story is not unique. The lawsuit contends that there are 1,500 human trafficking victims pointing the finger at 12 of the nations largest hotel chains, saying they should have seen the signs of trafficking going on right under their nose and done something to stop it.

Tiffany Ellis is representing the survivor in the lawsuit. The lawsuit contends that the trafficker took her right through the front doors of Detroit’s Holiday Inn Express and Ann Arbor’s Fairfield Inn to a rented room.

Each time she said there wouldn’t be any eye-contact with hotel staff, she didn’t carry any identification and didn’t have luggage. She said she was held captive, chained inside the hotel rooms in and out of consciousness. When she did wake up she said there would be evidence and pain that indicated she had been raped, but she didn’t have a memory of it.

Ellis said the woman survived one particularly gruesome rape with numerous incidents of violence that should have alerted the staff that something was going on. Ellis said the woman went to the front desk of the hotel with blood running down her legs and police weren’t called. The survivor is suing the hotels were she was trafficked between 2003 and 2008.

“She would stay for days at a time in the hotel in Ann Arbor, not come out of her room, exhibited signs of fear and anxiety was often skimpily clothed and exhibited signs of bruising on her arms and legs,” Ellis said. “There were incidents of violence there as well, rather it occurred in the room or in the hallways they should have heard through hotel security, through their guests at the hotel or even their security cameras.”

Survivors and others want to stop hotels being a haven for sex traffickers to conduct business.

“Despite all of those opportunities to see what was happening, they just kept accepting the money for the rooms,” Ellis said. “Approximately eight out of 10 arrested for any type of human trafficking occur in the countries largest hotel chains.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Marriott International are named in the Detroit lawsuit. Those are the companies representing the Holiday Inn Express and Fairfield Inn where she said she was trafficked.

The Local 4 Defenders discovered other survivors are suing other hotel chains around the country. Twelve hotel chains are named in lawsuits filed across the country, including names like Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Red Roof Inn, and more. Ellis said those hotels should have spotted the red flags.

To read the full story by Karen Drew and Kayla Clarke on Click On Detroit: Click Here

A Pioneering Ohio Courtroom Helps Trafficking Victims Find Hope

November 6, 2019

A diversion program for victims of human trafficking is spreading to cities around the country. The model has roots in Columbus, Ohio, where a judge decided to direct women toward rehabilitation instead of jail.

Ten years ago, Judge Paul Herbert was sitting in a courtroom when he noticed a trend. He was seeing lots of women who were abused and forced into sex work, but they were being treated like criminals.

“The sheriff brings the next defendant out on the wall chained up,” Herbert says, “and it’s a woman and she’s all beat up, she’s looking exactly like one of these victims of domestic violence except she’s in handcuffs and a jail suit. I look down at the file and it says prostitute.”

Herbert realized the law didn’t recognize these women as victims of human trafficking. So he pitched the idea of a courtroom dedicated to recovery, not punishment. It’s called CATCH Court, which stands for Changing Actions To Change Habits.

“We didn’t have the vocabulary that we do, even the vocabulary, let alone the way society looked at these women,” Herbert says. “So it was pretty much, we were kind of a laughingstock.”

To read and listen to the full story by Paige Pfleger on NPR: Click Here