Monday, March 17, 2008

Human Trafficking in the US

When one thinks of human trafficking, the act of moving a person or persons from one place to another through coercion, fraud, deception or force for the purpose of labor or more commonly the sex trade, most have visions of Thailand or Mexico. Human trafficking is more common than most people realize inside the United States. The United States is principally viewed as a transit and destination country for trafficking and it is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked to the U.S. annually. Less talked about is the number of US citizens particularly children and teens trafficked within the U.S. each year.

The FBI estimates that there are well over 100,000 children and teens in the United States most of them young girls being trafficked in the sex trade. They range in age from 9 to 19, with the average age being 11. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states, Washington D.C. and some U.S. territories.

Experts say many victims are from what would be considered "good" families, who are lured and coerced by experienced predators. Victims are no longer just runaways and children that have been abandoned. They are young girls, from good families that are lured into unwilling prostitution with promises of work, money, clothing and fame in modeling and acting. These predators know where children are, seek out their vulnerabilities and exploit them. Teens are lured and coerced and often physically assaulted and threatened with violence and even death for them and/or their family. In order to rescue these children from the streets, first they must be identified.

Identifying a Victim of Human Trafficking
(From US Department of State)

A victim:

Has unexplained absences from school for a period of time, and is therefore a truant
Demonstrates an inability to attend school on a regular basis
Chronically runs away from home
Makes references to frequent travel to other cities
Exhibits bruises or other physical trauma, withdrawn behavior, depression, or fear
Lacks control over her or his schedule or identification documents
Is hungry-malnourished or inappropriately dressed (based on weather conditions or surroundings)
Shows signs of drug addiction
Demonstrates a sudden change in attire, behavior, or material possessions (e.g., has expensive items)
Makes references to sexual situations that are beyond age-specific norms
Has a "boyfriend" who is noticeably older (10+ years)
Makes references to terminology of the commercial sex industry that are beyond age-specific norms; engages in promiscuous behavior and may be labeled "fast" by peers

Resources and Publications on Human Trafficking

One of the best ways to help combat human trafficking is to raise awareness and learn more about how to identify victims. Information on human trafficking can be found on the following Web sites:

U.S. Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Missing Persons

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking

U.S. Department of Justice

Federal Bureau of Investigation, Investigative Programs, Crimes Against Children

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Polaris Project

First Steps to find the Missing

According to the Dept of Justice, there are roughly 110,282 active missing person cases on record for 2006. Children under the age of 18 account for 53 % of the records and 11% were for young adults between the ages of 18 and 20.

People go missing for a variety of reasons and many are found or return on their own. Roughly 10% are never seen or heard from again. If you find yourself in a situation where a loved one, friend or collegue is missing and you suspect something is not right please see the list below.
Take care of yourself You are the vital link to your loved one. You are the one who can motivate others to keep searching.

Contact local law enforcementSome
law enforcement agencies are reluctant to take a report of a missing adult. Stress that you are concerned for his or her safety.

Get Help from Others
People want to help but they often don't know what to do. Give them tasks – don’t wait for them to ask. They can help with phone calls, completing forms, mailing flyers, reaching out to the media, making certain you take care of yourself, etc.

Collect personal items.
Collect some articles of unwashed clothing. Put his/her toothbrush and/or comb or hairbrush in a brown paper bag. Check with the police before you do this. Some states have enacted laws that require police do this collection from all reported missing person, regardless of age of the missing.

Keep a telephone log
Keep track of how you talk to, from what agency they are from and what the call was about. Remember to write down the time and date as well. This will help to keep things straight and have an on-going list of contacts.

Collect recent photos to be used to make flyers. Full frontal photos are more desirable.
Flyers do help. It’s helpful to use a candid natural photo rather than a posed shot. This will assist people in recognizing your loved one. Make certain that these flyers are posted in the types of areas and retail establishments that your loved one would frequent
Provide bus/train stations with a flyer or picture of your child. Bus stations don’t usually keep track of the names of people on busses but employees may recognize a picture or a description.

Contact the Media
Although TV seldom features missing adults, it is sometimes possible to find a sympathetic columnist with a newspaper who will cover the story and print a photo. Designate a spokesperson that can speak to the media and develop a press kit with relevant information.

Stick to the facts
Keep the reporters to the facts. Don’t be swayed by leading questions. Disregard their speculation or unfounded rumors. You will carry more credibility if you simply stick to the facts.
Hold awareness eventsMedia attention will generate leads. Volunteers can organize many events that will keep the story in the hearts and minds of the public.

Law Enforcement Help for Missing Adults

Some law enforcement agencies are reluctant to take a report of a missing adult. Stress that you are concerned for his or her safety. The following will help you work with law enforcement more effectively to find the missing person.

• Write down the name of the officer who takes the report as well as the badge number, telephone number and the police report number.

• Keep a notebook and record all information on the investigation.

• See if the person can be entered into NCIC (National Crime Information Computer). The person must be entered here or other law enforcement agencies won’t know that your child has been reported as missing if the child is picked up or a check has been run on them for something else.

• Make fingerprint and dental records available to the police.

• Have the cell phone number of the missing individual tracked for last record of activity. If the cell phone has GPS capabilities, this is even better.

• If there are medical or emotional concerns, make sure they are clearly stated when filing the report.

• If a vehicle is involved, make sure the license is also entered into NCIC

• Most often with an adult missing, the families do the majority of the searching.

• Don’t cancel a bankcard or credit card. It might be smarter to have law enforcement “flag” these cards so that if used, they will be notified, and might lead you to a paper trail of your loved one or someone who knows where your loved one is.

Team Work
Establish a teamwork approach with law enforcement. Cooperation with them is essential. You can also expect law enforcement to ask some hard and difficult questions. Do not take this personally. Respond as best you can and try to remember as many details as you can. Remember; keep your focus on the missing person.

Law Enforcement Contacts
Establish or have law enforcement establish a contact person within your local law enforcement agency so you are consistently and accurately informed of on-going developments in your case. Understand that at times, law enforcement many not be able to share all aspects of the investigation with you.

Seek more help.
Set up a command center for volunteers to help with searching and to hold awareness events. Keeping the story in the media will help with exposure and generating leads. Seek outside help with licensed private investigators who might be willing to look into the situation. Sometimes they are able to generate leads law enforcement cannot.