You may not think we deal with human trafficking cases here in the Heartland but we most certainly do.
In fact, 298 human trafficking cases were reported in Illinois last year. There were 178 human trafficking cases reported in Missouri last year and 102 in Iowa last year.
Tuesday is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons and local law enforcement is urging people to be on the lookout.
Local hotels are even getting involved in the fight against human trafficking, with a “No Room for Trafficking” campaign hoping to spotlight this issue and raise awareness to this so-called worldly epidemic.
“There’s a number of people that will reside in some of the long term hotel rooms here in Quincy,” said Adams County State’s Attorney Gary Farha.
Those people could be operating a human trafficking operation, flying under the radar of local law enforcement.
“A lot of people are transient,” said Farha. “They’re moving from here to the next community.”
One of the biggest problems with human trafficking worldwide is awareness, which involves law enforcement as well.
“I always think there was stigma on it years ago, especially when it comes to sex trafficking. A lot of times it was the female’s fault or the persons that wasn’t from this country’s fault but when it’s investigated a lot of those people are victims themselves that have been forced into a trade, not of their own willingness but because they had to survive,” said Adams County Sheriff Brian VonderHaar.
According to the U.S. State Department, 80 percent of those trafficked across international borders are female and half are children. Unfortunately, human trafficking cases are usually hard to prosecute.
“A lot of these people are going to be very reserved,” said VonderHaar. “They’re going to be very quiet. They’re not going to have a lot of interaction with law enforcement or public schools or even the medical community. They would keep to themselves. We wouldn’t necessarily see it unless it’s obviously reported on.”
Visit https://polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/recognize-signs for signs to look out for in regards to human trafficking.
To request help or report suspected human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “help” to BEFREE (233733).