Across the US there are many organizations who are trying to aid victims, prevent and combat human trafficking, from state and federal agencies to a slew of non-profit organizations. What is unique about the human trafficking crime is that government agencies at local, state, and federal levels realize that the nongovernmental agencies are required as partners to make progress in this fight; that they cannot do it alone.
These agencies work together to identify, rescue, and rehabilitate victims of trafficking and to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators. As in many previous times, this past month, OEW had the opportunity to help guide a family through the process of reporting a potential human trafficking case.
A family member noticed her daughter had grown distant and after some investigative work on their part, they figured out the cause. She had met a person over social media and was in the process of being groomed. Immediately the parents phoned the police and shared with them everything they knew, including all the interactions between their daughter and this man posing as a teen, including the phone number that he was contacting her through. Unfortunately, they live in a small town where the law enforcement had very little human trafficking training and basically did nothing with the information. The family never received the closure they needed, and their daughter was still scared, and rightfully so. This is what made them turn to us.
It is important to note that when reporting a crime with your local police, always get a case number. This family never received a case number after reporting the crime. Once we reported the crime to the FBI and ICAC- Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a paper trail was created, and the potential traffickers’ phone numbers and accounts were then flagged. We have to remind ourselves that human trafficking only became a Federal crime in 2000, when the Trafficking for Victims Protection Act (https://www.state.gov/international-and-domestic-law/) was passed.
This crime continues to grow and, in many ways, continues to outpace anti-human trafficking efforts. Agencies and organizations dealing with the crimes are often still figuring out processes and procedures to deal with this hidden crime. Even in a large city like Charlotte, the police department has only a handful of agents dedicated to working with cases dealing with human trafficking. When working with a suspected human trafficking case, always call the police, contact the Center for Missing and Exploited Children (https://www.missingkids.org/HOME). Call the Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) immediately and they will help you figure out next steps. Work with the police but know the family often needs to be the one to coordinate with outside agency resources. Youth4Abolition teaches about agencies and law enforcement and brings awareness to many of the quality partners out there in the fight. Y4A and our student leaders work to prevent this crime before it happens.