Human trafficking is becoming one of the larger problem law enforcement faces today. It generates billions of dollars of profit each year which makes it more and more prevalent than ever before. The FBI investigates it as a priority under civil rights violations, but sees human trafficking activities in other investigative areas as well, including organized crime, crimes against children, and gangs. The Denton County Sheriff’s Office has worked with this task force on numerous occasions. There were two human trafficking operations last year in Denton County.
Many people have the perception that human trafficking relates only to the sex trade, and if they live in a good area, it’s not an issue. However, human trafficking is not just about the sex trade. Many people are sold into slavery has housekeepers or laborers in jobs that have nothing to do with the sex trade. To address this continuous and growing threat, the FBI and US Marshalls are the primary agencies who work these cases; however, federal, local, state, federal and international partners participate in approximately 70 multi-agency human trafficking task forces on an ongoing basis.
Many human trafficking cases are based on information from law enforcement partners and from criminal sources, but tips from the public work just as well.
During fiscal year 2012, the FBI task force opened 306 human trafficking investigations around the nation involving forced labor or forced household service as well as sex trafficking of international victims (young and old) and adult U.S. citizen victims. In addition, they opened over 363 investigations into the commercial sexploitation of domestic minors. They located more than 500 young victims of sex traffickers.
That’s where you come in. Please keep your eyes out for the following indicators that suggest the possibility of human trafficking:
• If you meet individuals who have no contact with friends or family and no access to identification documents, bank accounts or cash, please report it;
• Workplaces where psychological manipulation and control are used can be havens for human traffickers;
• Homes or apartments with inhumane living conditions make good “safe” houses for human traffickers to hide their victims and their entire operations;
• People whose communications and movements are always monitored or who have moved or rotated through multiple locations in a short amount of time may be under the control of human traffickers;
• Take note if you see places where locks and fences are positioned to confine occupants; and
• If you notice workers who have excessively long and unusual hours, are unpaid or paid very little, are unable take breaks or days off and have unusual work restrictions and/or have unexplained work injuries or signs of untreated illness or disease, you may be looking at victims of human trafficking.
Human trafficking victims can be anywhere and can be of any age. If your kids have friends that are not in school, get to know them and find out why. Victims can also be found in many job locations and industries—including factories, restaurants, elder care facilities, hotels, housekeeping, child-rearing, agriculture, construction and landscaping, food processing, meat-packing, cleaning services…as well as the commercial sex industry.
In addition, while many human trafficking victims in FBI investigations are from other countries and speak little or no English, approximately 33 percent of victims are Americans. They come from a variety of groups that are vulnerable to coercive tactics. These groups include minors, certain immigrant populations, the homeless, substance abusers, the mentally challenged and/or minimally educated. There are also those who come from cultures that historically distrust law enforcement or who have little or no experience with the legal system.
If you suspect human trafficking activities, do the FBI and the victims a big favor: call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. Or visit the FBI’s Human Trafficking site here.