Record number of human trafficking arrests made in Cook County

The Cook County Sheriff's Office is reporting a record number of arrests this month related to human trafficking.

Sheriff Tom Dart says with the proliferation of shady websites for classified advertising, the problem of human trafficking is so vast, it's not something police can "arrest their way out of."

Sheriff's officers have made 10 arrests in the last two weeks, and Dart said the number of arrests should theoretically be exponentially higher.

"The only reason those are the numbers is because that's how much personnel I have to put into this. If I had more, I'd be making thousands more [arrests.]"

The suspects are facing charges such as trafficking in persons, involuntary servitude, and promoting prostitution. All of them were caught via labor-intensive sting operations using personal ad websites like Listcrawler and Megapersonals.

"If you were to go to any of their sites right now, there's literally no mystery what's going on, on their sites. None whatsoever," said Dart.

Dart said he and other law enforcement are trying to put pressure on shady websites to report illegal activity, but some can hide behind free speech laws, and others aren't based in the U.S.

"We are going to continue to press these sites to work with us to put a stop to this," said Dart.

Dart's office released a list of signs you can look out for that are common in victims of human trafficking: visible signs of abuse like bruises and cuts, isolation from their loved ones, women whose money is under someone else's control, are secret about their whereabouts and exhibit sudden behavioral changes, or who may have a controlling partner.

"We are overwhelmed with this," said Dart.

Dart also urges parents to make sure they have full access to their children's phones and to regularly monitor who they may be interacting with, as a lot of this exploitation can start with children being targeted by predators online.