Monday, February 26, 2024

Edmondson: The scourge of human trafficking must stop!

Human trafficking is one of the most tragic human rights abuses of our time, and more tragically, it is more common than many people recognize

It is estimated that there are more than 25 million men, women, and children who are victims of human trafficking around the world. Human trafficking is a crime that knows no borders.

Here in Texas, there are over 300,000 victims of human trafficking, including almost 79,000 youth victims of sex trafficking and nearly 234,000 adult victims of labor trafficking, according to a 2016 study by the University of Texas at Austin.

Minor and youth sex trafficking costs the state of Texas approximately $6.6 billion annually, and traffickers exploit approximately $600 million from victims of labor trafficking in Texas. Undoubtedly, these 7-year-old statistics have only gone up since then. And it’s important to realize that young boys as well as young women are also trafficked for sex.

Here in North Texas, we are on major north/south as well as east/west highways. This makes us an ideal location for sex traffickers to use as they deliver their “product” throughout the country.

Law enforcement agencies play a crucial part in the fight against this abhorrent evil. Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree has implemented a task force specifically to combat human trafficking in our area.

The Denton County Human Trafficking Investigation Unit consists of a sergeant and four investigators who work towards the detection and investigation of human trafficking. This unit is trained to monitor and apprehend predators who use social media to lure young people into personal meetings which often result in a teen (or even a pre-teen) being trafficked. Sheriff Murphree coordinates with other local, state and federal agencies to detect, investigate and make arrests of those involved in the trafficking.

It is not always easy to detect a victim of human trafficking, but Sheriff Murphree encourages, “If you see something, say something.”

Recognizing key indicators could save someone’s life. Here are a few indicators to look for: Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship? Has a juvenile stopped attending school? Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior? Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse? Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing? Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive? Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care? Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to? Does the person appear to be coached on what to say? Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation? Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?

Not all indicators listed above are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking.

Ladies, at some time we may have a unique opportunity to help a trafficking victim. Be aware when using a public restroom, for instance in restaurants along the major highways. Is there another woman who seems distraught, unhappy, scared? She may be a young teen or closer to your own age, but she’s not acting normal. It can be helpful if you ask her, “Are you okay? Do you need help?” and then listen and watch for signs that she does need help. If so, ask her to stay right where she is and then you can go to a manager and request that the police be called. Or you can phone 911 yourself from the restroom. “Listen to your gut, your instincts,” says Sheriff Murphree.

Anyone who believes they are a victim of human trafficking or has information about trafficking can call the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or Denton County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-388-TIPS. Resources in Denton can be accessed on the C7 Human Trafficking Coalition’s website at c7htc.org.

Ending this global scourge demands both action and cooperation. No single government or individual can do it alone. Governments, faith-based organizations, civil society, and survivors must work together. So, let’s all be a little more aware as we go about our daily lives, and as Sheriff Murphree says, “If you see something, say something.”

CTG Staff
CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette News Department

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