MnDOT Initiative Raises Awareness For Human Trafficking

The Minnesota Department of Transportation will begin installing posters in 41 rest areas across the state this week to educate the traveling public about human trafficking and to encourage them to report suspicious activity.

The posters include guidelines on how to recognize signs of human trafficking and potential victims as well as a toll-free hotline to report any suspicious activity.

Human trafficking often involves the transport of victims from a base of operations to locations of exploitation.

“Minnesota has the third highest number of human trafficking cases in the nation,” said MnDot commissioner Charlie Zelle. “MnDOT’s responsible for maintaining the quality and safety of multiple modes of transportation, including highways, airports, rail lines, transit systems and commercial vehicles, provides unique opportunities to see—and stop—human trafficking activities.”

To read the full story by Claire Colby on Post Bulletin: Click Here

Feinstein: ‘Human Trafficking Is Totally Bad. It’s Totally Illegal. It Ruins People’s Lives’

Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Thursday applauded the collaboration between Fresno law enforcement and community groups in combating human trafficking.

“Today was a really unique meeting, because Fresno seems to have a very unique program,” Feinstein said after the Thursday gathering. “Here, there’s a community-police connection.”

Stopping human trafficking has been a concern of the senator’s for some time, and she said the opportunity to hear from law enforcement officials and community leaders at the meeting in Fresno will be helpful in crafting legislation to address the problem.

“Human trafficking has been relayed to me to be the second largest criminal industry in the United States, Feinstein said. “And young girls are trafficked all throughout America and throughout California. And pimps make a lot of money, and young girls have their lives ruined.”

California has the most cases of reported human trafficking in the U.S., and Fresno has the seventh-highest number of those cases, according to the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission’s Central Valley Against Human Trafficking Project. Bakersfield is ranked eighth.

And human trafficking is increasing, in part because of awareness in the community to report it, but also because of gang-related trafficking, the commission said.

Feinstein said 49 percent of girls who are traffficked are between ages 15 and 19, but 10 percent are 11 years old. Those involved in human trafficking should be vigorously prosecuted, she said.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, who participated in the roundtable at Fresno police headquarters, said victims are often promised love and money, but “before they know it, what they’re promised is violence and death.”

To read the full story by Barbara Anderson on The Fresno Bee: Click Here

New Task Force Formed to Fight Human Trafficking in Northeast Ohio

(CLEVELAND)— Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Cuyahoga County Sheriff Clifford Pinkney, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations Acting Special Agent in Charge Steve Francis, and Independence Police Chief Michael Kilbane today announced the formation of a new task force that will work to fight human trafficking in northeast Ohio.

The Cuyahoga County Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, which is part of the Ohio Attorney General’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, is being led by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department and includes representatives from each of the aforementioned local and federal agencies.

The task force, which recently began operations, will investigate incidents of human trafficking primarily in Cuyahoga County.

Investigators have already opened a number of investigations, and the task force has rescued nine human trafficking victims since its formation. An additional 56 victims have been identified as possibly being involved in sex trafficking.

Among those rescued by the task force include a 14-year-old girl who investigators found was being advertised on the internet for sex. Three suspects are now facing felony human trafficking charges related to that case, and dozens of other suspects face possible felony charges as the task force continues their open investigations.

“Human trafficking is a vile crime, and I’m confident that this task force will make a difference in the lives of many more victims who are currently enslaved by traffickers in northeast Ohio,” said Attorney General DeWine.  “Human traffickers may think that their crimes will go unnoticed, but through this partnership of state, local, and federal authorities, traffickers will be exposed and held accountable for their actions.”

“Our mission in setting up the Cuyahoga County Regional Human Trafficking Task Force is to identify and recover victims, to prosecute those who perpetrate this crime, and to put an end to this crime,” said Sheriff Pinkney.

To read the full story on Huntington News: Click Here

Missouri Attorney General To Investigate Backpage With New Human Trafficking Unit

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announces new initiatives to crack down on human trafficking at a safehouse near St. Louis on Monday, April 3, 2017.

 

JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has begun the process of investigating the online advertising website Backpage, using a new unit in his office tasked with prosecuting human traffickers under the state’s consumer protection laws.

Hawley told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday that evidence already points to Backpage and its affiliates knowingly participating in illegal trafficking activity and concealing it, including findings from a U.S. Senate committee, which examined 1.1 million pages of documents supplied by the company.

Spearheaded by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the probe culminated in a scathing report in January that alleges the site automatically filters out any words in ads that indicate the site was offering sex with minors.

 
Critics of the site’s practices say that it’s become a hub for commercial sex exploitation, with traffickers using it to sell sex through the “adult” sections, which once allowed users to advertise escort services, strip clubs, and “adult jobs.”

To read the full story by Celeste Bott on St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Click Here

Immigration Expert Predicts Human Trafficking Will Surge Under Trump

The U.S.’s anti-immigration policies and building a US/Mexico wall are set to hinder the fight against human trafficking

WASHINGTON, April 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Under tougher anti-immigration policies in the United States under President Donald Trump, human trafficking will “skyrocket,” a top expert warned at a conference on Tuesday.

Fear of being deported by U.S. authorities stops people from speaking up about their own or other trafficking cases, said Denise Brennan, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at Georgetown University.

“Policies that push migrants to live and work in the shadows make the perfect prey for abusive employers,” said Brennan, a keynote speaker at the Trust Conference/America Forum, a one-day Thomson Reuters Foundation event on the fight against slavery and trafficking.

“We cannot effectively fight trafficking when migrants fear reporting exploitation and abuse.”

Anti-immigrant rhetoric, violence and policies are on the rise around the world, in particular in the United States under Trump, who has vowed to fight illegal immigration and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, she said.

“Trafficking will skyrocket under President Trump,” she said. “Anti-immigrant policies make trafficking possible.”

Since becoming president, Trump has issued a temporary visa ban against seven Muslim-majority countries that was later blocked by federal courts, suspended a refugee program and initiated tougher deportation procedures.

LITTLE POLITICAL WILL

Up to 12 million people are estimated to be living illegally without documents in the United States.

While there are no official law enforcement statistics, in the United States nearly 32,000 cases of human trafficking have been reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in the last decade.

“These individuals have no place to turn,” said Brennan, author of “Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United States.”

“Isolation and threat of deportation are just as powerful as locking someone behind closed doors,” she said.

 

To read the full story by Ellen Wulfhorst on Thomson Reuters Foundation News: Click Here

Lawsuit Accuses Philly Hotel of Providing Rooms to Human Traffickers

A suit filed against the Roosevelt Motor Inn in Rhawnhurst is the first of its kind under the state’s 2014 human trafficking statute.

Roosevelt Motor Inn. Photo via Google Maps

A hotel in Northeast Philadelphia has been accused of regularly providing rooms to human traffickers.

A lawsuit was filed on behalf of a 17-year-old girl who claims she was forced to perform sexual acts with men at the Roosevelt Motor Inn, located at 7630 Roosevelt Boulevard in Rhawnhurst. The lawsuit, which was filed in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, accuses the hotel of knowingly and regularly providing rooms to her traffickers in 2013 and 2014, starting when she was just 14 years old.

It’s reportedly the first lawsuit of its kind under Pennsylvania’s 2014 human trafficking statute, which establishes that businesses that directly or indirectly benefit from human trafficking can be forced to pay compensation to victims.

The lawsuit, filed by Kline & Specter partners Thomas Kline, Nadeem Bezar and Emily Marks, lists the defendants as the Roosevelt Motor Inn; its manager, Yagna Patel; and the company that owns the motel, UFVS Management Company, which operates out of Purchase, New York.

The complaint states that the defendants “failed to take any steps to prevent human sex trafficking at the Roosevelt Motor Inn and instead permitted heinous and unspeakable acts to occur and profited from them.”

To read the full story by Claire Sasko on Philadelphia: Click Here

‘A Gift To Human Traffickers’: Report Warns Of Dangers Of Trump Immigration Policy

Study claims hardened stance on immigration leaves undocumented migrant workers at greater risk of modern slavery and human rights abuses 

Undocumented farm workers from Mexico at work on a farm in California
Undocumented labourers from Mexico at work on a farm in California. Analysts warn the new immigration policy will put such workers at greater risk of exploitation and debt. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s hardline approach to immigration has been branded a “gift to human traffickers” amid concerns that stricter deportation and border regulations will push undocumented migrant workers underground, putting them at greater risk of slavery and human rights abuses.

The new administration’s immigration policy – which hinges on the construction of a US-Mexico border wall and immediate repatriation of illegal immigrants – will force criminal networks to use more costly and potentially more dangerous trafficking routes by air and sea, say global risk analysts Verisk Maplecroft.

According to a report by the company, the controversial stance adopted by the White House towards migrant workers and immigration will be a major driver of human rights risks for business in 2017.

Developed countries are warned that human rights abuses are surfacing closer to home for western companies just as legislation strengthens and scrutiny of business practices increases.

Saket Soni, executive director of the membership organisation National Guestworkers Alliance, said the Trump administration’s new regulations will only exacerbate existing problems and proves that the US government is “part of the problem”.

“Trump’s policies are a gift to human traffickers,” said Soni. “We know firsthand what Verisk Maplecroft’s report confirms: criminalising immigrants makes them more vulnerable to forced labour, human trafficking, and modern-day slavery. Trump’s mass criminalisation will drive immigrants further into the shadows, where increasing numbers of them will face forced labour conditions.”

The report, entitled Human Rights Outlook 2017, draws on Verisk Maplecroft’s portfolio of global human rights data and its interactions with multinational companies to assess the top 10 human rights issues affecting business in the year ahead.

“The US is already classed as ‘medium risk’ in our index measuring modern slavery around the world, and the commodity risk that we’ve done shows that there are already extreme risks for migrants, including those on farms harvesting apples or citrus fruits,” said Maplecroft’s principal analyst, Alexandra Channer.

“There’s already a significant problem for undocumented workers in certain industries in the US. So the impact of these policies will be worsening an already serious issue, which we could see potentially widen to different industries, for example the transportation and hospitality sectors.”

To read the full article by Kate Hodal on The Guardian: Click Here

Fighting Human Trafficking In Detroit

When some 200 law enforcement officers raided the Victory Inn on Jan. 12, they recovered more than just narcotics.

They also rescued 14 victims of human trafficking who were being provided drugs in exchange for “commercial sex dates” in filthy rooms filled with needles, crack pipes and guns.

And they had expected to find even more victims.

“Traffickers move people, and it just so happened that some of the women were working elsewhere,” said Deena Policicchio, director of outreach and education services for Alternatives For Girls, which joined the operation 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Detroit-based nonprofit serves high-risk girls and women and partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations to offer the victims crises counseling, hygiene supplies, clothing, drug treatment referrals and transportation to safe lodging. WC Safe, a Wayne County nonprofit that helps sexual assault survivors, and the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic also assisted the victims.

“They’re still in trauma and crisis mode,” Policicchio said shortly after the raid.

According to court records, Michael Randol, a 41-year-old convicted felon from Detroit, distributed drugs to women in exchange for sex dates at the motel. One woman described as a frequent Victory Inn resident told police she worked as a prostitute to pay back a man called “Q,” who sold her cocaine and heroin, and to “work off a drug debt she owed” to another man called “T.” She alleged the men had as many as 20 women “working for them.”

Melissa Novock, a WC Safe human trafficking specialist, said a lot of traffickers use drugs to manipulate women who have or develop addictions. But there are a number of reasons women fall victims to trafficking. Some fall behind on rent and need money. Others can’t get a job because of criminal histories. Some become involuntarily controlled.

“(Some)times what happens is a woman is selling herself, a pimp finds her, decides he wants to own her and he’ll just go in a hotel, rape her and then say she is his,” Policicchio said. “…and he will beat her and control her from that day forward.”

Pimps often target vulnerable young girls and women, though boys can be victims, too, Novock said. There’s also a misconception that victims are snatched from malls or bus stops.

“Sometimes that does happen. But a lot of the times…the young girls are not in a great situation,” Novock said, rattling off examples: They’ve been sexually abused, live in foster care or a homeless shelter, or suffer from an abusive relationship. “They’re looking for some type of attention, some type of love and a pimp takes advantage of that.”

Trafficking happens everywhere

While The Victory Inn sits next to a topless bar in an area known for prostitution, authorities say human trafficking occurs everywhere.

“We’re always thinking that this is happening somewhere else or to someone else, but it’s happening in Michigan, and it’s happening in the city and the suburbs,” Novock said.

Policicchio said she went on one raid with law enforcement in an affluent Wayne County suburb. They were looking for women forced to prostitute at a hotel full of families staying there for a soccer tournament.

To read the full story by Stephanie Steinberg on The Detroit News: Click Here

Indiana At The Crossroads Of Human Trafficking Fight

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – As the crossroads of America, Indiana is at the crossroads of the Nation’s growing problem of human trafficking.

Indiana state police are asking truck drivers, the men and women who work, eat, and sleep on the interstates, to look out for victims of trafficking. It is a crime a crime that often goes unseen and unrealized.

In the first ten months of 2016, 66 cases were called in to the National Human Trafficking hotline. According to the organization, 16 of the calls came from victims or survivors. 
Indiana State Police Trooper Yan Dravigne sees the tragedy first hand.

“These people are not treated as humans. They are treated as objects and once their job is done they are discarded,” he said.

Last month, Dravigne pulled over Procopio Torres along I-70 in Morgan County. Dravigne said Torres admitted he was paid to drive three boys from Texas to New York.

“He had no knowledge about their names or who they were,” he explained. “They were scared. Who knows what they were promised. They didn’t know where they were going, they were just promised something.”

Torres is charged with transporting illegal aliens for financial gain. The three boys, aged from 11-14 years old, are in the custody of federal authorities. Investigators believe their trip began somewhere in South America.

State police in Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio are working with Truckers Against Trafficking. Troopers are encouraging drivers who see something suspicious, call a special hot line.

“They’ve seen this stuff happen at rest stops and truck stops,” Dravigne said.

Randy Gries admitted he’s seen plenty in his years of driving a truck, but never enough he said to warrant a call to authorities.

“The girls in the truck stops, for example. When you see them, you know, number one, that there is more behind it than that one individual,” he explained.

Sarah Hurley has seen and heard a lot, too. She founded Kristy’s House, which provides counseling and other help to women trying to escape the sex trade.

To read the full story by Rich Van Wyk on The Greensburg Daily News: Click Here

Trooper Who Rescued Teen: ‘No One Should Be Trafficked’

PHOENIX — An Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper said his training in identifying signs of human trafficking helped him rescue a 16-year-old runaway who was being sold for sex.

Trooper Jonathan Otto, 33, said a traffic stop near Kingman led to the discovery Jan. 11 after he’d noticed a vehicle driving in excess of 100 mph along U.S. 93 in the early-morning hours.

After interviewing the occupants of the vehicle, Otto said he recognized one of its female passengers as demonstrating indicators of human trafficking. Though the girl initially said she was 18, Otto said he found information about her at the scene that showed she was a minor.

At the time of the stop, the 16-year-old was in the company of a man and woman with whom she shared mutual friends, Otto said. They were identified by DPS officials as Rasheen Adams, 22, and Chicha Harris, 22, of Las Vegas.

Officials said the girl was trafficked in Southern California, taken to Arizona, and was on her way to Las Vegas at the time of the traffic stop.

Adams and Harris were arrested and face felony charges including sex trafficking of a minor, custodial interference and theft of means of transportation, the DPS stated. Both were booked in to the Mohave County Jail and were each released on a $10,000 bond, officials said.

Runaway sought to ‘get away from her impoverished life’

In a news conference in Phoenix on Thursday morning, Otto recalled the signs that led him to believe it was more than just a typical traffic stop.

He said that when he first approached the vehicle to talk to the occupants, he smelled a pungent perfume that had permeated the vehicle. A female occupant in the front passenger seat was wearing only lingerie, and the teen in the backseat was scantily clad.

To read the full story by Garrett Mitchell of The Arizona on USA Today: Click Here