Metra aims to prevent child exploitation with poster blitz
Metra plans a poster campaign to reach out to young victims of sexual exploitation on its system, officials said Tuesday.
The railroad is partnering with Reclaim 13, a DuPage-based nonprofit educational group that also runs a shelter for girls who were victims of sexual trafficking. Reclaim 13 leaders contacted Metra after hearing from victims who said traffickers often use trains to transport minors. In the coming weeks, Metra will display posters at stations and on trains offering tips on how to recognize someone who is being exploited and how to get help.
"Oftentimes they're stuck in a situation and don't know who to reach out to. We want to let them know we're out here, we're looking for them, they're not forgotten and they're not alone," Reclaim 13 Executive Director Cassandra Ma said.
The agency also will train police, conductors and ticket agents to recognize potential victims.
"This is a very, very serious issue," board Chairman Norm Carlson said. "It's something I want all of us to get really behind and do whatever we can."
Traffickers frequently find vulnerable children on social media. Victims recounted being put on Metra trains by traffickers to link up with johns or meeting johns at Metra stations, Ma said.
"Kids are often trafficked from the suburbs to Chicago, but we work with kids who come from all over," she said.
To learn more about Reclaim 13, go to www.reclaim13.org. For help, call Reclaim at (312) 462-3306. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is (888) 373-7888.