Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. Trafficking victims are subjected to force, fraud or coercion, for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Victims are young children, teenagers, men and women, primarily from impoverished backgrounds.
“After drug dealing, trafficking of humans is tied with arms dealing as the second-largest criminal industry in the world, and is the fastest-growing. All too often it is hidden from sight and invisible to the general public. Human trafficking is a multi-dimensional threat; it deprives people of their human rights and freedoms, is a global health risk, and fuels the growth of organized crime.”¹
Law enforcement is built upon tradition and culture. We are the organization that “answers the call” for our communities and our citizens, regardless of the circumstances. The very tradition and culture that defines who we are can also be the barrier that prevents us from effectively responding to evolving crimes like trafficking.
More than 25 years ago, it was imperative for law enforcement to evolve; to adjust how we identified, prevented, and investigated domestic violence. This was accomplished through extensive training, newly formed partnerships with advocacy groups, public education and strong legislation.
Law enforcement must, once again, change our culture in an effort to end human trafficking. We must RECOGNIZE, RETHINK, AND RESPOND: Recognize the indicators. Rethink the situation. Respond appropriately and refer for investigation.
Our training must prepare us to look deeper to uncover the dark side of human trafficking. On the surface, those involved in this horrific crime are assumed to be prostitutes, runaways, strippers, drug users or undocumented immigrant employees evading the system. Beneath the surface, however, we often find that these individuals are beaten, tortured, raped, broken, and forced to live in conditions that are unbearable.
It is critical for law enforcement – the first responders for trafficked victims – to once again collaborate with the community to provide education, establish response protocols, and provide safe housing for victims. These efforts, along with changes to our legislation, will help end modern-day slavery.
~ Phillip L. Crowell, Jr.
Chief of Police, Auburn Police Department