Recently several of you asked whether human trafficking is an issue in the United States. Well, it’s an issue everywhere, so I asked James Marshall, our partner at the FBI, to assist us. He provided this information:
Right here in this country, people are being bought, sold and smuggled like modern-day slaves. They are trapped in lives of misery and forced to work as prostitutes or take grueling jobs as migrant, domestic, restaurant or factory workers with little or no pay. Human trafficking is a form of slavery where the traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against his/her will. It is often confused with alien smuggling — individuals who consent to be smuggled across a border illegally. In fact, approximately one third of human trafficking victims are Americans. Human trafficking generates billions of dollars in profit each year making it a major criminal activity.
The FBI is the lead agency for investigating violations of federal civil rights laws, and human trafficking is one of our top civil rights violation priorities. In 2005, the FBI established the Human Trafficking Initiative to take on this international problem from both a criminal and human perspective.
To combat this heinous crime, the FBI participates in numerous joint law enforcement task forces around the country, uses intelligence to identify traffickers and, perhaps most importantly, works closely with trafficking victims to enlist their help in prosecuting their captors and to make sure they get the support they need to cope with the horrors they have been through.
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Still, the public’s help is needed to identify potential trafficking victims. Please keep your eyes out for the following indicators that suggest the possibility of human trafficking:
▪ Individuals who have no contact with friends or family and no access to identification documents, bank accounts, or cash;
▪ Workplaces where psychological manipulation and control are used;
▪ Homes or apartments with inhumane living conditions;
▪ People whose communications and movements are always monitored or who have moved or rotated through multiple locations in a short amount of time;
▪ Places where locks and fences are positioned to confine occupants; and
▪ Workers who have excessively long and unusual hours, are unpaid or paid very little, are unable to take breaks or days off and have unusual work restrictions, and/or have unexplained work injuries or signs of untreated illness or disease.
If you suspect human trafficking activities, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888 or contact the FBI at 754-703-2000.
Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.