Attorney General’s Office Wants To Teach More People How To ID Human Trafficking

AUSTIN — It was a neighbor who saved Tonya Stafford’s life, she said.

The Dallas native, who spent about a decade trafficked for sex, shared her dark story and the key to her survival in a new training video released Thursday. State officials hope the video will educate and mobilize people across the state to spot potential cases of sex and labor trafficking.

“Human trafficking is very hard to detect,” said Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office funded and unveiled the video before hundreds of people at the Austin Independent School District Performing Arts Center. “The evil of human trafficking is significant, but if it cannot endure under the might of Texans united behind one another.”

Paxton is requiring all 4,000 of his agency’s employees to watch the 52-minute video, titled “Be the One in the Fight Against Human Trafficking.”

The video features stories of two women who were trafficked as minors, as well as a group of neighbors in The Woodlands who noticed a constant stream of cars visiting a home down the block on a cul-de-sac where women were being trafficked for sex. Throughout the video are tips about how to identify potential sex and labor trafficking and urged viewers to report it.

To read the full story by Andrea Zelinski on Chron: Click Here

Human Trafficking, ‘The New Crack Cocaine,’ Bay Area Police Say

SANTA CRUZ – Most are adults and about 30 percent of Santa Cruz County’s human trafficking victims are commanded by female traffickers.

“It’s the new crack cocaine,” Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills said Wednesday morning to police officers and badged supervisors at the police department’s community room. “Except with trafficking, you can sell it over and over.”

Every officer raised a hand when asked whether he or she has responded to a sexual-assault case. The cases, too often, lack information, one officer said. Those missing details are common in human trafficking, which includes sexual assault, domestic violence, kidnapping, abuse and other crimes involving victims too vulnerable, or too traumatized, to report their situation. The training, part of a twice-monthly program at the department, was designed to teach officers how to identify the subtle signs of human trafficking — holding a person by means of force, fraud and coercion. 

The FBI has identified the San Francisco Bay Area, including Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, as one of the three highest-intensity child sex trafficking regions in the country.

Mills said Santa Cruz Police Department, unlike metro departments, lacks a unit dedicated to human trafficking.

Deborah Pembrook, who teaches others about the problem through the Coalition to End Human Trafficking in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, said trafficking is happening in Santa Cruz County. About 30 percent of the traffickers are women, Pembrook said. Traffickers can be anyone, a trusted family friend to gang members immersed in organized crime. The trafficked may appear to be the criminal, such as a drug dealer. And many trafficking victims are so traumatized by the abnormal lifestyle, they struggle to find a way out and relapse, Pembrook said.

Pembrook said, of the 25 forms of human trafficking observed by the Polaris Project, an initiative that defines human trafficking as a form of slavery and a “multibillion dollar criminal industry,” most have been observed in Santa Cruz County. Those include escort services, illicit massage, strip clubs and cantinas, pornography and covert crimes disguised by traveling sales, commercial cleaning services and restaurant work. She said human trafficking has not been observed locally in manufacturing industries or people trafficked from recreational areas.

Many victims of human trafficking are branded like animals. Their tattoos, which Pembrook showed on a projector screen, may be phrases stating they belong to someone. Detective Laurel Schonfield, who works human trafficking and other cases, said one of the photos depicting a cheetah tattoo was taken in a case that has linked tips of trafficking from Santa Cruz County to Florida. She said the crimes have no boundaries.

Human Trafficking: Ohio Looks Beyond Traditional Law Enforcement

 

According to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s “Governor’s Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force Report” released in January, there are at least an estimated 3,000 minors at-risk for human trafficking in the state of Ohio.

Human trafficking is defined on the Human Trafficking Task Force website, www.humantrafficking.ohio.gov, as a form of modern-day slavery in which criminals profit from the control and exploitations of others. Trafficking takes place in one of two forms: labor trafficking — compelling people to provide labor or services; and sex trafficking — forcing individuals to perform commercial sex acts.

“Both use force, fear and coercion to keep victims working against their will,” according to a news release. “Both types occur in Ohio.”

In 2015, Ohio ranked fourth in the nation for calls for the numbers of human trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline number. In 2012, Ohio ranked 11th in the nation, according to the governor’s task force report.

“Over the last several years, Ohio’s calls to the national hotline have increased. More specifically, 4.8 percent (1,066 calls) of the total calls made to the national hotline came from Ohio in 2015, compared with 3.4 percent (459 calls) of the total in 2012,” the report stated.

To read the full story by Kristi Garabrandt on The News-Herald: Click Here

‘Buyer Beware’: Brown County Human Trafficking Sting Results In 35 Arrests

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) — The Brown County Sheriff’s Office has a message for people looking to purchase sex in our area: “Buyer beware.”

That’s what Chief Deputy Todd Delain said Thursday during a news conference on a recent human trafficking sting in the county.

“If you’re a buyer looking for sex in Brown County, buyer beware. You might be dealing with a law enforcement officer that’s looking to arrest you,” Delain says.

Thirty-five men were taken into custody over the course of a 4-day operation, between Monday, July 17, and Thursday, July 20.

The arrests were made in conjunction with the Green Bay Police Department, De Pere Police Department, Ashwaubenon Public Safety Department, Brown County Drug Task Force, Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“About 99.9 percent of the stuff we do is on the internet, whether it be Backpage, Craigslist, or any other escort internet websites that we use,” says Sgt. Matthew Wilson, Brown County Sheriff’s Office.

 

To read the full story on 7 WSAW: Click Here

Immigrants Are Among Most Vulnerable To Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a nearly $32 billion industry and more than 27 million people are victims of the illicit business on an international scale, according to the Polaris Project, which is tasked with fighting human trafficking in its various forms.

The Administration for Children and Families, which works with the Department of Health and Human Services, estimates that human trafficking is the second fastest growing black market activity.

In 2013, the state’s Human Trafficking Policy Task Force found that immigration plays a unique role in the underground world.

“Undocumented workers are often particularly vulnerable to abuse due to their lack of immigration status and fear of deportation,” a report by the task force stated.

Additionally, many who are the victims of trafficking for forced labor or sex slavery have trouble getting the services they need.

“Other realities inherent to victims of human trafficking, such as a survivor’s criminal history, lack of housing history, and/or immigration status, may make it difficult or impossible for survivors to qualify for government services,” the agency’s report said.

New tactics are recommended to law enforcement by the agency, which encourages authorities to explain to potential victims that questions about trafficking are not intended to determine somebody’s immigration status.

New legislation filed by Gov. Charlie Baker at the beginning of August is aiming to allow police in Massachusetts to hand over illegal immigrants suspected of crimes, including human trafficking, to federal authorities.

To read the full story by Bradford Randall: Click Here

How The New Anti-Trafficking Bill Will Help To Curb The Human Trafficking Epidemic

Anti-trafficking advocates have lauded the measure that recently passed the House of Representatives. Here’s why.

The House of Representatives recently approved a new anti-trafficking bill (H.R. 2200) which allocates over $500 million over the next four years for domestic and international programs to support victims and persons vulnerable to human trafficking. This is an encouraging step to enhance efforts by the U.S. government in preventing human trafficking, protecting trafficking victims, and prosecuting traffickers. Named for the famed American abolitionist, the “Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act” reauthorizes funding for programs within the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Labor, and State, and the U.S Agency for International Development, highlighting the importance of tackling this growing problem through multiple channels.

The fact that H.R. 2200 passed with no recorded opposition is a testament to the fact that human trafficking is being increasingly recognized by both political parties as a serious national and international problem. Anti-trafficking advocates have lauded this bill, and several other anti-trafficking bills passed by the House this year, as strong statements that the U.S. is committed to the fight to end modern slavery. These efforts also reveal the complexities of combating human trafficking, with the bill advocating for a more comprehensive response — one that approaches the problem from several levels.

INCREASED RESOURCES FOR VICTIMS

This bill places more emphasis on the prevention of trafficking compared to the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which was reauthorized by Congress four times by overwhelming majorities in 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2013. Not only will H.R. 2200 bolster the identification of trafficking victims through more educational programs, but it will provide funding to increase programs that provide victims with more assistance, such as trauma-informed care or long-term housing options.

Community-based organizations that provide services for victims are notoriously overtaxed and often struggle to meet the needs of all groups that seek services. As a result, crucial resources such as shelters and psychological counseling are scarce. This bill will help organizations to better meet victims’ needs.

ENHANCED PREVENTATIVE MEASURES FOR CHILD TRAFFICKING

H.R. 2200 brings attention to the importance of preventing future exploitation. One important area of focus is the prevention of child sex trafficking in the United States. Through more age-appropriate information in human trafficking to students, school teachers, and staff, we can raise awareness of the tactics used by traffickers to manipulate and exploit victims. School officials are well-positioned to help recognize warning signs of children who are most vulnerable to trafficking and to prevent them from being exploited. With increased awareness regarding the signs of trafficking, school officials can also be called upon to report potential trafficking cases to authorities.

To read the full story by Mellissa Withers of University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine on Reuters: Click Here

Two Cuffed In Brooklyn Human-Trafficking Bust Could Be Part Of Larger Sex-Slavery Gang

The arrests of two people on sex trafficking charges in Brooklyn could be the tip of the iceberg, according to police sources who said the operation may be linked to a gang that has been forcing young girls into prostitution.

A 21-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman were arrested after a 16-year-old girl escaped their Crown Heights lair and told police that she and another teen were being held as sex slaves in an apartment where younger children also live.

“This is absolutely a case of human trafficking where these young girls were taken for profit and being forced to have sex for money,” a source said.

Cops said there are still a lot of unknowns, including the connection between the four younger children in the apartment and the people who were arrested.

 

To read the full story by Rocco Parascandola  and Molly Crane Newman on New York Daily News: Click Here

 

 

‘Am I About To Be Sold?’: Human Trafficking in Alamance County

 

Editor’s note: In the process of reporting on prostitution and human trafficking in Alamance County, as well as the cycle of poverty, homelessness and drug use that often accompanies it, the Times-News spoke with a woman who was forced into prostitution this year at a Burlington hotel. Law enforcement has confirmed the woman’s story of being victimized as part of a sex trafficking operation. The Times-News has changed her name in this story for her protection.

As she sat waiting for her name to be called in Alamance County Superior Court, Ashley had no choice but to listen to the plea that was unfolding at the front of the courtroom.

She had been in court before, undoubtedly hearing attorneys and prosecutors talk about other defendants’ cases as she waited. Ashley didn’t remember those, but the facts of this case would stick with her.

She would remember the appearance of the man pleading guilty to having sex with an underage girl who was, as it turned out, being forced into prostitution as a victim of human trafficking.

She would remember that the john pleading guilty had formerly been a police officer, and that he had filmed the encounter with the girl.

To read the full story by Natalie Allison Janico of Times-News, Burlington , N.C.: Click Here

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