CHICAGO, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- A new Illinois law protects teenagers under 18 from prosecution for prostitution while increasing penalties for their pimps and customers.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Illinois Safe Children Act on Friday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The law, modeled on a similar one in New York state, treats male and female teenage prostitutes as victims of abuse and neglect to be handled by child welfare agencies.
"For too long, exploited children have been treated as criminals, while the adults who stole their innocence go free," Quinn said as he signed the legislation at a state office in Chicago. "Illinois does not tolerate exploitation of our children. Today we give important new tools to aid law enforcement in this fight and help our victimized children to heal."
The bill also allows police to use wiretaps in child prostitution investigations and prosecutors to seize vehicles in those cases.
Michelle Saddler, head of the state Department of Human Services, said the measure is a "significant step in the right direction to help us protect young girls and boys who are coerced into this life."