Every day as we move around our community, we remain vigilant of threats to our personal safety. By now we're all familiar with the slogans, "If You See Something, Say Something," designed to raise our awareness, or "Run, Hide, Fight," to be used during an active shooter event. We even know to keep watch of our surroundings as we enter and exit the mall.
As a matter of fact, all these items have been covered over the past year right here in this blog. I honestly believe that today, because of the world condition, we are more aware as a society.
But even with a heightened awareness of things occurring around us, there's a criminal element that continues to operate in the shadows of our American cities, virtually unimpeded. Enter the world of human trafficking.
Many believe that human trafficking is something associated only with our southern border states, mostly involving foreigners crossing into our country. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Right here in Charlotte, North Carolina, 1,386 miles from the closest southern border point of entry, thrives a criminal underworld collectively supporting an estimated $32 billion illicit industry with international connections.
Human trafficking is the third-largest global crime behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking. This is a serious problem, perpetrated by criminals who have refined their tactics to the extent that they're comfortable operating in plain sight.
Unless you're trained to recognize the techniques and understand the vocabulary of human traffickers, you can literally be sitting in a public place, watching a transaction occurring, and never realize what's happening. As a matter of fact, the bad guys who specialize in human trafficking are counting on that, so they can continue to operate in obscurity.
So what is human trafficking? According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center:
According to The Polaris Project, operators of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, recognizing potential red flags and knowing the indicators of human trafficking is a key step in identifying victims and helping them find the assistance they need.
Some common work and living conditions that surround an individual who is being trafficked include:
- Not being free to come and go as they wish
- Under 18 years of age and providing commercial sex acts
- In the commercial sex industry having a pimp or manager
- Unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
- Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
- Not allowed breaks or suffers unusual restrictions at work
- Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
- Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
- High security measures exist in the work and/or living location (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Here in Charlotte there are many organizations engaged in countering the human trafficking trade. Some of those include law enforcement, shelters, medical providers, religious institutions, counseling centers and city/county government.
Through education, you can become part of the solution to eradicate this crime that thrives on the innocent and helpless.
If you know someone who is a victim of human trafficking here in the United States, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center 24/7 at (888) 373-7888.