Experts share signs of child sex trafficking

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TUSCOLA, Ill. (WCIA) — The U.S. Department of Justice indicted a 55-year-old man for attempted child sex crimes.

James Russian faces the following four charges:

  • Attempted enticement of a child to engage in illegal sexual activity
  • Attempted sexual exploitation of children
  • Attempted sex trafficking of minors
  • Attempted receipt of child pornography

Russian was arrested in April after he allegedly agreed to pay to engage in sexual activity with an 8-year-old girl. Instead, he was actually communicating with undercover FBI agents on social media.

Kim Mangiaracino with the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Illinois said sex trafficking has evolved over the last several years.

“Previously, sex trafficking was like something you’d see on a movie like ‘Taken,’ Mangiaracino explained. “Not saying that doesn’t happen, but what we’re seeing on a more regular basis is at-risk kids who don’t have a cell phone, don’t have a happy life at home, don’t have all the things they want, possibly a runaway, and then they get approached by these people who take advantage of those situations and offer to fill in some of those gaps that kids and teenagers might have.”

She said kids have spent more time online in the last few months because they’ve been at home during the quarantine.

“Kids are spending a lot more time at home, which typically means more time on their devices, and more time unsupervised on those,” Mangiaracino said. “It is very easy for people to reach out through the internet and befriend kids.”

She said parents should have conversations with their kids about stranger danger as soon as they are old enough to have access to the internet.

The Illinois Department of Child and Family Services has also shared a list of signs of child sex trafficking.

Mangiaracino said if you suspect child sex trafficking or abuse, to report it to the DCFS 24-hour child abuse hotline, 1-800-25-ABUSE.

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