Reporting suspicions of possible missing child or child trafficking: Part I: My story

Last week I was in Chicago doing some sightseeing.  On the way up to the Sears Tower, I took notice of the group behind me and felt uncomfortable.  Something in my gut told me something was wrong.  The group consisted of: One adult white middle aged man, One Eastern European girl approximately 15 years old, One Asian girl approximately 6 years old.  For me, these were the red flags:

  • None of the people seemed to know each other very well.
  • The man asked the teenager if she had been in a tall building before and she responded that a man in Vegas took her up a tall building.
  • The man was promising the children he would take them on trips and buy them dinners.
  • During the 15 minute movie they showed, he had his arm around the little girl and was stoking the back of the teenagers neck.
  • The girls seemed uncomfortable.

So, here is the dilemma…. what do you do in this case?  I mean, there was nothing more than my gut that told me something was wrong.  To make matters worse, I had no cell reception at the top of the tower.  Sometimes I worry that I see too much into other people’s action because I work in the field of counter-trafficking and counter-child-prostitution, but S also said he felt like something was wrong.

In the end, I made sure that I had photos of each of them in case I was right. I also tried to listen in on conversations and to talk to the girl (admittedly, a small effort, because I just started chit-chatting about some souvenirs she was looking at– she responded and quickly moved away).  When we got down, I called the National Center for Missing Children to make a report.  They suggested that I also call the local Chicago Police.

Here is the first problem: I didn’t have the numbers in my cell phone and I wasn’t sure who to call (please see part II for how to report and please program these numbers into your cell phone).

Here is the second problem: The Chicago police I spoke with did not take me seriously; in fact, they yelled at me.  Since I am still frustrated by this part of my conversation, I am going to tell you about it.  I called the police (non-emergency number) after talking to 2 other national hot lines.  Needless to say, one hour had elapsed.  Here is how the conversation went.

Police Woman 1: Hello. Chicago police, how may I help you?

Me: Hi. I would like to report some suspicious activity between a man and two children at the Sears Tower.

Police Woman 1: Are you there now?

Me: No. It was about 5:30 pm.

Police Woman 1: Then why are you calling now?

Me: Because I already made a report to the National Center for Missing Children and they suggested I make a local report as well.

Police Woman 1: So, what do you want me to do?

Me: Make a report.

Police Woman 1: Okay, I will transfer you to a district one officer.

Police Woman 2: Hello.  How can I help you? (please note, no one had given me their name at this point)

Me: Hi. I would like to report some suspicious activity between a man and two children at the Sears Tower.

Police Woman 2: Are you there now?

Me: No. It was about 5:30 pm.

Police Woman 2: Then why are you calling now?

Me: Because I already made a report to the National Center for Missing Children and they suggested I make a local report as well.

Police Woman 2: Did you report this to a security guard?

Me:No.

Police Woman 2: Why not?

Me: Because it didn’t occur to me at the time and I don’t know what they could have done.

Police Woman 2: Did you call emergency?

Me: No. I had no signal.

Police Woman 2: Did you talk to the man?

Me: No.  (side note: talking to the man is NOT a good idea.  He could be dangerous)

Police Woman 2: So, what do you want me to do?

Me: Make a report.

Police Woman 2: Well, I don’t know what I would do with a report.

Me: You have a department dedicated to human trafficking and child victims of sexual abuse.

Police Woman 2: No, we don’t.

Me: Yes you do. You have a grant from the Department of Justice.

Police Woman 2: No we don’t.

Me: Yes you do, your police officers came to a training in St. Louis!

Police Woman 2: Fine, what do you want the report to say.

….. I described each person and what happened and what the red lights were. I gave the best description I could of each person down to eye color, nationality, things said (for example the older girl came from a country where money was different colors)…

Police Woman 2: How much did the man weigh would you say.

Me: I am bad at estimating, but my fiancee thinks he was about 100 kilos.

Police Woman 2: 100 what?

Me: Kilos. Kilograms.

Police Woman 2: 100 pounds?

Me: No. Kilos. Its a different unit of measurement… my fiancee is from Chile…. I am sure whoever reads the report can google the conversion rate.

Police Woman 2: Yea, I can’t do that. I am gonna leave it blank.

…. (more description)…

Police Woman 2:Do you want to add your phone number to this?

Me: Yes please, it is 414

Police Woman 2: (interrupting) I am sorry, I can’t take a non-local number.

Police Woman 2: Can I put you on hold.

(on hold for at least 5 minutes)…

Police Woman 2: I am going to transfer you to our special victims unit.

Me: Thank you.

Police Man 3: Hello. This is Detective So-and-so.

Me: Hello. Did they transfer over my report with this call?

Police Man 3: No. Don’t know what you are talking about.

Me: Okay. (Deep breath) I would like to report some suspicious activity between a man and two children at the Sears Tower.

Police Man 3:Oh, that is in district one, let me transfer you there.

Me: NO!!!! I have already talked to them… I would like to talk to a specialist in child victims or trafficking victims.

Police Man 3: Okay, what did you see?

Me: (entire story again)

Police Man 3: Well, we will get the report from District one on Monday.

Me: The woman taking the report refused to take some information including my phone.

Police Man 3: Do you want me to take your phone?

Me: Yes please, its is….

Police Man 3: Okay, someone will call you

I have to say— I am not holding my breath for a phone call. I told each policeman that the reason I was calling and not just leaving the report with the National center for missing and exploited children is that Sears Tower takes a picture of each group going up.  Sadly, no one was interested.

*** For the record, this is just me venting. It is not intended to dissuade people from calling and making reports.  It is amazing the number of victims who have been freed because a neighbor, a person in line, or a stranger felt that something was wrong and reported it.  I am sure this will not happen in my case, because i was not lucky enough to get someone on the other end who got what I was trying to say.  If nothing, this just reiterates the need for police training on issues of human trafficking and child prostitution***

3 comments

  1. Frustrating! Ugh! Something similar happened to me twice, except it didn’t have anything to do with missing children or child trafficking… they even laughed at me.

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