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2023 marks 2nd Human Trafficking Prevention Month; Peoria businesses are showing their support

The Murray-Baker Bridge is lit up with brilliant blue lights to show support for survivors of human trafficking during the 2023 Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

The Center for Prevention of Abuse (CFPA) is collaborating with local businesses in January to raise awareness during this year’s Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

The CFPA opened its human trafficking services department in January of 2018, and since then has provided essential services to more than 120 victims of human trafficking.

CFPA CEO Carol Merna said it's an honor to serve the community with these services, and that educating residents about the signs of human trafficking is essential to prevent these crimes.

“A lot of people think that trafficking happens, you know, in other parts of the globe. And it does,” Merna said. “But it also happens all across the United States and all across Illinois, including central Illinois, and Illinois is currently ranked 10th in human trafficking calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.”

According to statistics provided by the CFPA, in 2021 there were 243 cases of human trafficking in Illinois and more than 10,000 across the United States. Human trafficking has surpassed the illegal sale of firearms as the second largest crime committed in the world.

Merna said the CFPA is directly involved in the prevention of human trafficking through collaborations with the Illinois State Police Department, the Department of Justice, and FBI.

“There's a number of things that we want people to do to stay safe,” Merna said. “First and foremost, don't confront a trafficker, or someone who you believe is a trafficker. Take note of the circumstances, what somebody looks like, what they're wearing, maybe a license plate, the time and location. And then reporting to local law enforcement is key.”

The CFPA trains law enforcement in how to handle cases of human trafficking, and Merna said it's worthwhile to call the hotline if there is a suspected trafficking.

To raise awareness during Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the CFPA has collaborated with two local Peoria businesses to bring attention to these types of situations, teaming up with Lost Art Design and Print with a limited edition T-shirt design that can be purchased on their website, and also designing a drink sleeve to be sold at CxT Roasting Company.

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, CFPA will host a “CxT Meetup” at the Keller Station location to encourage supporters and friends of the agency to purchase a drink and learn more about human trafficking.

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Isabela Nieto is a student reporting intern at WCBU. Isabela is also a student at Bradley University in Peoria.