Human trafficking: Being aware of potential threats is the first step in prevention

Photo provided by MGN Online.
Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 6:55pm

As people become more aware about the dangers of human trafficking, many wonder what’s being done about it. Police, state government agencies, and non-profit organizations are fighting together to end put an end to the problem and everyone is part of the solution.

“One of the things you can do to take action is to be aware of what you post on social media,” Christine Baamonde, Awareness director for Trafficking Hope, said. “Realize that there are people out there preying on vulnerable youth on social media.

“Don’t put all your business, don’t put all the information, be careful what pictures you post and don’t put where you’re going and who you’re going to be with,” she added. “Realize that people are behind the scenes reading this and will bump into you in that location and develop a relationship. That is what we are finding - several girls and boys are becoming vulnerable on Facebook, Instagram and other forms of social media.”

The Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control are now training employees at establishments that sometimes house trafficking.

“We’ve been working with those industry associations, business owners and employees to teach them and educate them about signs and about things to look out for to see if a trafficking situation is going on in their establishment that they could report,” Jessica Starns, ATC, said. “That’s had a lot of success.”

According to Shared Hope International, Louisiana is the highest-ranked state in the nation for the fight against human trafficking. The state is working to be the first in the country to have an “A” grade. That effort is being waged on the part of law makers with legislation such as the Safe Harbor bill.

“That will give safe harbor to anybody who calls that hotline if they are found to be a victim of human trafficking,” State Representative Valarie Hodges said. “We will give them a place to stay and their charges will be basically dropped. We want to help them.”

Unfortunately, the second line of defense in the war against human trafficking is fought after a victim is rescued. The Hope House run by Trafficking Hope is one of many shelters focused on rehabilitation for victims. However, it is the only one of its kind here in Louisiana.

“When they come in here, it’s a process of un-programming and showing them that there’s hope,” Chuck Robb, Executive Director of the Hope House, said. “There’s hope for a better life.”

Shelter organizations like Hope House, law enforcement, and government officials all want to reduce and eventually end the number of victims. The key to doing that is by increasing awareness

"Human trafficking is happening in your subdivision, my subdivision, in apartment complexes and everybody is unaware of it." State Representative Valerie Hodges said.

Louisiana State Police has developed an app for citizens called “See Something, Send Something”. The app is free, and police ask that if you see suspicious activity to send it in.

For more information on human trafficking information and statistics in Louisiana, visit www.TraffickingHope.org.
 

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