How can you help stop human trafficking?

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Do you know the signs of human trafficking?

It's a startling question to ask, but one worth considering if you're interested in helping curtail this type of crime. Human trafficking is the second highest crime in the U.S., after drug offenses, one expert said recently.

At a recent luncheon in Cape Girardeau on human trafficking, Alex Kavanaugh with the St. Louis County Police Department, and Cindy Malott, an official with the St. Louis safe home, offered some suggestions on how to identify victims. Kavanaugh, who supervises an investigative unit specializing in sex trafficking and crimes against children, said the crimes can and do happen in Southeast Missouri.

Malott, according to a story written by Marybeth Niederkorn, said victims sometimes have unusual tattoos such as a bar code or crown with a name under it. Sometimes victims are bruised, wear sunglasses indoors or at night; or wear clothing not reasonable for weather, such as long sleeves in the summer. Sometimes they refuse to make eye contact.

Kavanaugh said many young girls fall victim to "Romeo pimps" who claim to love and care about a girl, but then coerce her into performing sex acts for money, and recruit her friends.

Malott said victims might be approached on social media, or through an email blast, promising modeling jobs or small roles in music videos.

"That's why understanding what this looks like is very important to prevention," Malott said.

The overwhelming majority of people would rather human trafficking be removed from our society, but few are aware of the signs of this evil underworld. It's up to all of us to be aware of the signs and keep our eyes open for potential victims.

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