WLPO Special Report

The LaSalle County Sheriff on Friday announced the prostitution stings that nabbed nine men from the Illinois valley.

As expected, most of the chatter since then has focused on the johns, many of whom are in high-profile positions in the area. We here at WLPO learned of the operations weeks ago, and quickly we decided to shed light on the prostitution that surrounds us – including the way it works, the women, and its link to the drug trade.

Over the next several days, in a WLPO News exclusive, you’ll hear from one former prostitute in a series we’re calling “Valley of Shadows.”

Through back channels and negotiations, WLPO News was given permission to interview a former prostitute who’s been a confidential informant helping officers. She’s from the area, so we’ve changed her name. We’ll call her Emily. And, as you’ll hear, we’ve also changed her voice.

Emily is in her 20s, and she’s headed to college. You’ll get to know Emily better in the week ahead. We’re going to share parts of the story each day, and once we’ve done that, we’ll air the secret interview.

Emily estimates a couple of hundred women – whom we’ll call “girls,” as she does – are selling sex right here. And a lot of them work out of strip clubs, hotels, and private homes. In the digital age, many customers find the girls by using apps and websites like SkipTheGames.com, which redirects to a European URL and works a lot like Craig’s List. In fact, LaSalle County has a section all its own.

Human Trafficking is one especially disturbing aspect of prostitution, of course. Emily says she’s not aware of any human trafficking in the Illinois Valley, but for those who say prostitution isn’t a “real” crime if girls aren’t forced into it, remember that many of the girls in the trade are there in the first place to fund a drug habit.

And a guy who thinks it’s completely his own business if he decides to spend a couple of hundred bucks on a good time with a girl needs to know his money eventually goes to the girl’s drug dealer -- and then to the dealer’s connection, and so on, until it reaches the top of the narcotics organization.

And it might come as a shock, but Emily says it’s all around us in the Illinois Valley.

If the ultimate, large scope of the prostitution-and-drug trade isn’t scary enough, consider one of the first things Emily said during her interview:

Tomorrow, we’ll start sharing Emily’s personal story with you, including how she started, and a frightening experience she had.

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