How suburban state rep got hotels joining the fight against human trafficking

Hotel and motel employees are being enlisted in the fight against human trafficking in Illinois under a new state law authored by a suburban legislator.

Loquaciously called the Lodging Establishment Human Trafficking Recognition Training Act, the law mandates that workers be trained on how to recognize the signs of trafficking and report them to authorities.

That goes for all workers at all hotels - not just the local no-tell motels people might incorrectly believe are the only places where trafficking occurs.

"It goes on in all (hotels)," state Rep. Terra Costa Howard told us this week.

Costa Howard, a freshman Democrat from Glen Ellyn, introduced the bill in February. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed it into law Aug. 23, and it goes into effect June 1, 2020.

Human trafficking has been at the forefront for Costa Howard since her days as an assistant public defender in DuPage County, when she represented people who might have been trafficking victims.

She said workers might notice little things that make them suspicious, such as one person doing all the talking for a couple or group, or standing in a position that indicates control over another person.

Other signs, according to the anti-trafficking nonprofit Polaris Project, include an extended stay with few possessions, excessive traffic in and out of a room, frequent requests for new towels or linens, guests unusually concerned with surveillance cameras and entrance policies, and multiple rooms being reserved under one name.

"The housekeeping staff probably sees more than anybody else in the hotel," Costa Howard said.

<h3 class="leadin">Hotels on board

Terra Costa Howard

After introducing her legislation, Costa Howard was surprised to hear from a statewide hotel/motel association that already had some programs in place and was willing to back her proposal.

"Sadly, hotels in cities large and small are being used by traffickers to exploit their victims," Michael Jacobson, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, said in a prepared statement. "Our industry is steadfast in robust training and knowledge-sharing to identify and eradicate this problem. We are all in this together."

Among the hotel industry leaders is the Marriott chain. Since 2017, more than 600,000 Marriott employees have received training in recognizing the signs of human trafficking and how to respond when they do, said company spokeswoman Barbara DeLollis. The company produced a video titled "One Million Eyes" detailing its efforts and giving information on how others can help.

Hotel chains like Marriott International have backed a new state law requiring hotel and motel employees to be trained on how to spot and report human trafficking. Courtesy of Marriott International

"By educating and empowering our global workforce to say something if they see something, we are not just standing up for the most vulnerable in society; we are also protecting associates and guests as well as living up to a core company value - serving our world," CEO Arne Sorenson said in January.

Local police are on board with the training as well.

"We partner with everyone we can to identify issues and solve problems in our community, so we think this is a good idea." Arlington Heights police Cmdr. Joseph Pinello said.

<h3 class="leadin">Cop 'gits' up for challenge

Batavia police have joined the trendy "Git-Up Challenge" to raise money for Special Olympics.

In a video posted on social media Tuesday, Justin Howe, the school resource officer at Batavia High, shows off some slick dance moves (particularly "the hoedown" and "the butterfly") to the Blanco Brown country-rap hit "The Git Up," with the help of the high school's dance team.

"Our goal is to keep the revolution of inclusion rolling, by raising money and awareness for Special Olympics," Howe says at the end of the video, which you can watch at

<h3 class="leadin">More ways out

Lake County's innovative A Way Out program to help those battling addiction and substance abuse has added a couple of more police departments to its ranks: Wauconda and Antioch.

"Being a part of this program is another tool in combating substance abuse without overtaxing our detention facilities," Wauconda Police Chief David Wermes said in an announcement of his department joining the 3-year-old initiative. "This program also forces a trusting relationship between the community and the police department."

Launched in 2016, A Way Out focuses on treatment instead of punishment for people struggling with addiction. Anyone in need can walk into the lobby of a participating police station, ask for help and receive assistance in getting into a treatment program. Anyone can even turn in illegal drugs without facing charges.

"Any program we can offer to assist people with substance use issues is a program we feel is worth having," Antioch Police Chief Steve Huffman said.

Antioch and Wauconda are the 14th and 15th Lake County police agency to sign up for the program. Others include the Lake County sheriff's office and the Lake Zurich, Libertyville, Gurnee, Mundelein, Grayslake, Round Lake Beach, Round Lake Park and Fox Lake police departments.

<h3 class="leadin">Reason to smile

Streamwood police dog Scout was taking part in normal training operations in June when his handler, officer Collin Klein, noticed something wrong.

Streamwood police dog Scout is back on the job after a grant helped repair two teeth that were broken during a summer training incident. Courtesy of Streamwood Police Department

Klein soon discovered that Scout had broken his lower left and upper left canine teeth during a conditioning exercise, injuries severe enough that they would require the services of a canine dental specialist to repair.

Thanks to a grant from the California-based National Police Dog Foundation and the specialists at the Veterinary Dental Center of Oswego, Scout's teeth were repaired and he's now is back on the job performing his full duties.

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