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Group marches in Carbondale to shed light on human trafficking; survivors urge everyone to report signs

CARBONDALE — A group of about 25 people gathered in the rain Thursday afternoon to march the streets of downtown Carbondale in an effort to raise awareness about human trafficking.

The march was organized by a group known as The Torch Coalition. The organization was developed in November after The Keys to Freedom Conference at John A. Logan College, meant to combat human trafficking.

Thursday was Human Traffic Awareness Day and January is Human Traffic Awareness Month. Jennifer Orr, a member of the coalition, said human trafficking is essentially the modern-day form of slavery, all over the world.

“It takes place every single day,” she said.

Quoting the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, she said human trafficking is the second largest source of illegal income worldwide — second only to drug trafficking. She said it is a $32 billion industry.

Orr said it is estimated that 22 percent of trafficking involves the labor industry, and 80 percent of that number involves sex trafficking. Out of that 80 percent, it is estimated that 80 percent are women and girls, and 50 percent of those are minors.

According to numbers from the resource center, trafficking happens in strip clubs, hotels, massage parlors, nail salons, truck stops and through online advertisements. In Southern Illinois, websites like feature advertisements for online escort services and feature transactions that are cash only.

Statistics from the resource center reveal that since 2007, there have been 4,032 calls and 1,054 total cases regarding human trafficking in Illinois. Additionally, there have been 1,369 victims statewide in that same time frame.

In 2017, through June 30, there were 289 calls and 100 trafficking cases reported, the center reports. Of those cases, 75 were sex trafficking and 15 were labor trafficking. Those cases involved 83 women and eight males, and 57 were adults, while 32 were minors. Additionally, 28 of those individuals were U.S. citizens and 19 were not U.S. citizens.

The center says the statistics are noncumulative, as cases reported do not always have all the information reported.

“In all honestly, many cases go unreported,” Orr said. “Simply because … people are unaware that this happens and we don’t know how to identify it.”

She said when the topic of human trafficking comes up, she is commonly asked if it even happens in Southern Illinois.

“It happens anywhere and everywhere there is demand for the second-most profitable product in the world,” she said.

Orr said Southern Illinois is an ideal location for trafficking because of its proximity to St. Louis and Chicago. She said in 2005, the FBI designated Chicago as one of the 13 locations of highest-intensity child prostitution. In 2003, the New York Times called Chicago a national hub for human trafficking.

She said those at risk aren’t just the people from big cities. Those at risk are those who came from a background with a broken family system, the homeless, the LGBT youth who have been kicked out of their homes and the children in the foster care system. These aren’t the only people, but just a few instances, she said.

“Trafficking isn’t just a big city problem,” she said. “It is a local problem.”

Orr said traffickers target the vulnerable by deceiving them, making them feel trapped and breaking them down mentally. She said these victims become a product for the trafficker.

“What is so lucrative and attractive to these pimps is you can only sell drugs to a customer one time, but you can sell this product over and over and over again,” she said.

The keynote speaker of the event was Trisha McKnight, an author and trafficking survivor from Breese. She told her story of survival growing up in Freeburg becoming a victim at 13 years old.

McKnight said victims just don’t wake up one day and are in the trafficking world. She said it is usually somebody very close to the victim who has the power to control their world.

She said people can’t just let warning signs go unreported. Somebody saying anything could have the power to help.

“The act of human trafficking doesn’t just happen. It has steps,” McKnight said. “We need to change our everyday way of thinking about these offenses. And what we have learned to tolerate and dismiss.”

If you believe you have information about a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking 24/7 Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.

Wintry precipitation is coming to Southern Illinois. Here's what you need to know.

CARBONDALE — As winter precipitation moves in and temperatures fall as much as 30 degrees throughout the region Thursday night, law enforcement and weather officials are asking people to stay in if they can.

“Make sure you are aware of the danger you are putting yourself in,” said Joey Watson, a trooper with the Illinois State Police District 13 office, of people’s decision to venture out Thursday night and Friday.

Watson said if travel is unavoidable, then drivers should be prepared — make sure winter maintenance is kept up on vehicles, be sure the gas tank and wiper fluid are full, and pack extra blankets and food should someone need to wait on help after sliding off a roadway or being involved in an accident.

David Humphrey, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Paducah office, said between Thursday night and Friday afternoon, the region could see between one and two inches of winter precipitation on top of some accumulation of ice and freezing rain. What started as a mild, rainy day in the region was expected to turn frigid Thursday night.

“By midnight you are going to see half of Southern Illinois below freezing,” Humphrey said.

That extra rain that falls in the afternoon could prove to be a particular risk for motorists Thursday. Keith Miley, operations engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said as temperatures rapidly drop below freezing there could be a “flash freeze” of moisture on the roads, leading to dangerous conditions.

Miley said he was sending his night crews home in the afternoon to rest in preparation for a long night of salting and scraping roads, trying to keep up with accumulation.

Miley said those considering getting out, particularly during peak traffic times in the morning, need to remember that local road systems may not be in as good of shape as the main highways. He also added that while the temperatures are forecast to dip well below freezing, he believes the rock salt and other chemical ice-melt IDOT uses should remain effective.

Watson said there is the possibility that there could be a tow ban in effect Thursday night, which he said would be done to keep emergency persons safe during the potentially dangerous weather.

He said the police will be out with extra officers to make sure those on the roads are safe. He said should a tow ban be put in place, officers would transport stranded individuals to safe locations themselves.

Watson said if an accident does occur, he urges drivers to stay in the car with their seat belts on — more accidents can happen when people are out assessing damage, he said. He said if possible, move damaged cars off of the roads to wait for help.

Jacob Greer, assistant manager at Murdale Ace Hardware, said they have seen a run on winterizing products but said they still have a good supply.

“Normally we would almost be overstocked, but I guess with the current situation we have just what we need,” Greer said. He said anecdotally there seems to be a push for people to have supplies on hand just to be sure they have what they need when winter weather makes its return.

“Last night we had a gentleman purchase almost nine bags of ice melt,” he said. “I’ve seen a couple cart-fulls leave the store the last couple days.” 

Greer also indicated that the store is well-stocked on items for winterizing vehicles. He said they even have a few sleds should someone want to capitalize on the winter weather.

1-year-old, 3-year-old and Marion woman dead after Massac County crash

A three-vehicle crash in Massac County killed three people and seriously injured four others Thursday.

According to a news release from the Illinois State Police District 22, at about 6:23 a.m., Rachel E. Killian, 23, of Marion, was driving her red 2011 Kia Soul north on U.S. 45 when she left the right side of the road. Overcorrecting, she swerved into the left lane, causing the crash.

After leaving her lane, Killian then struck head-on the black 2014 Chrysler 300 that Karla R. Reichert, 57, of Karnak, was driving south, the police narrative said. Reichert was then struck by Cathy J. Ulen, 62, of Ullin, who was driving behind her in a gray 2015 Chevrolet Traverse.

According to the police report, Killian and her 1-year-old passenger were pronounced dead on the scene by the Massac County Coroner. A 3-year-old passenger in Killian’s vehicle later died because of injuries from the crash.

Reichert was transported to an out-of-state hospital with severe injuries and three passengers in Killian’s vehicle were transported to Western Baptist Hospital in Paducah with serious injuries.

According to the report, a 9-month-old passenger in Killian’s vehicle was restrained in a child’s seat, while the other passengers, including the driver, were not restrained.

All lanes of U.S. 45 were closed for about three and a half hours for the crash investigation and cleanup. The report said the investigation into the crash is ongoing.