Online Massage Ads in Oswego Renew Human Trafficking Concerns
Jul 12, 2016 08:31PM ● Published by Steven Jack
ORIGINALLY POSTED JULY 12, 2016
The recent appearance of two sexually suggestive advertisements for two separate massage businesses in Oswego on the online classified site backpage.com has prompted local human trafficking expert and victims’ advocate Chris Baker to call for renewed local diligence in the fight against the nationwide trafficking epidemic.
One ad offers “new and young Asian girls” for full body massage, while the other offers a new “beautiful and sexy Chinese girl.” Baker said these ads are clear signs that human trafficking is occurring locally.
“In a lot of these massage parlors there's a lot of sex trafficking and labor trafficking,” he said. “… I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that there is trafficking happening in and around Oswego.”
Baker could easily be considered an expert in the field. Through his Oswego-based tattoo cover-up ministry, Ink 180, he’s worked with over 200 victims of sex and human trafficking and heard all of their stories while covering over the tattoos that are used to mark the women as property. He’s also undergone countless hours of training and often speaks nationally to large groups on the subject.
Trafficked women are often brought to the U.S. from overseas by traffickers who offer to pay their way, Baker said. Once the women are here, their passports are taken away and they're told they have to work to pay off their debt.
“It's like a forced servitude," Baker said.
While larger surrounding towns like Naperville and Aurora have been hotspots for this type of criminal behavior in recent years, Oswego has remained largely unaffected. Police Chief Jeff Burgner said the last trafficking-related arrest was made in 2010.
McKenzie Carson, of Bolingbrook, was convicted in December 2013 with the help of Oswego Police for the human trafficking of four women, including a minor. Carson forced the women to perform sexual acts with johns in exchange for drugs. He had been arrested in Oswego in 2010 during a sting operation.
Burgner said he was recently alerted by Baker of the advertisements, and that Oswego officers do regularly check such websites for the appearance of offers of a sexual nature. Citing an ongoing investigation, however, Burgner wouldn’t directly comment on Baker’s findings.
“What I will tell you is that if we receive complaints of this type with specific allegations, that would certainly prompt us to initiate an investigation,” Burgner said. “We would start by looking into who owns the business and start looking into whether there are other businesses and the history of those businesses.”
Oswego Police also work closely with federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI that are tasked with investigating large-scale human trafficking operations.
“As the community continues to grow, these are the types of issues that we have to be aware of,” Burgner said. “That’s why it’s so important that we monitor our staffing levels and that we continue to have the resources to keep up with these latest trends.”