PIKESVILLE, Md. – With January being Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Maryland State Police are urging the public to recognize potential warning signs to reduce the chances of others becoming victims in the future.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a child is trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation every two minutes in the United States. There are also an estimated 24 million people trapped in human trafficking worldwide, according to the Center for Prevention of Abuse.
Victims of human trafficking become entrapped in a variety of ways. While many cases involve kidnappings, human traffickers often groom, manipulate, defraud and/or threaten victims to exploit them for commercial sex and/or labor. Three major airports, inexpensive bus transportation, train service along the East Coast, large sporting events and disposable income makes Maryland an attractive destination for traffickers.
Survivors can be anyone—men, women, adults, minors, U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, or foreign nationals. However, human traffickers often target members of marginalized communities and other vulnerable individuals. Labor trafficking can happen in legal and illegal industries—in homes, common retail establishments, dance clubs, childcare, elder care, construction, factories, landscaping, health and beauty services, hotels, farms, forestry, or restaurants.
In 2019, the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline identified 22,326 trafficking victims and survivors, 11,504 situations of human trafficking, 4,384 traffickers, and 1,912 suspicious businesses.
There are several basic steps the public can take to bring attention to the issue of human trafficking and reduce the chances of others becoming victims in the future.
- Talking with children about the dangers of human trafficking.
- Monitoring your child’s online activity.
- Know community resources available to victims of human trafficking.
- Recognize potential red flags of potential human trafficking victims, such as:
- Showing a lack of interest in previous activities
- Becoming isolated from regular friends
- Unexplained access to cash, expensive items, clothing, etc…
If you see someone in danger, contact 911 immediately. There are also several hotlines you can call for assistance and other outreach, including:
- BeFreeTextline – Text HELP to 233733 (BEFREE)
- National Human Trafficking Hotline – 1-888-373-7888
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children – 1-800-843-5678 (1-800-THE-LOST)