IA Marks World Anti-Trafficking Day: Hotline Reports up 61%
Friday, July 28, 2023
Sunday is World Day Against Trafficking in Humans, and in Iowa state officials are calling on residents to do more to help.
Reports of trafficking are up, and so is the prevalence of the crime. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said Iowa isn't alone in seeing a dramatic increase in human trafficking cases. Pate's office started asking employers to get involved in identifying traffickers and their victims through the "Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking" program. But Pate added that no matter how vigilant officials are, it is hard to keep up with ever-changing online platforms.
"With the internet and social media, they can move around - with a lot of 'cloak and dagger,' if you will - because it's very hard for law enforcement to track them all down," he said. "But it's also the way they recruit the people into trafficking. They prey on these people. They convince some of these folks that they're their best friend."
Pate said he's encouraged that, while trafficking is a growing problem, the number of tips to state officials is keeping pace. He said calls to a
state hotline to report suspected trafficking cases increased 61% last year alone.
Pate said signs of trafficking include isolation, someone not showing up to work or school for long periods or becoming suddenly withdrawn. But he added that other signs are more subtle.
"It's not like Hollywood, where a van pulls up and a couple of guys jump out and kidnap somebody," he said. "They are grooming people and they're bringing them in, and trafficking is very complicated. Family members are sometimes trafficking other family members."
Cities and towns are training police officers to be more aware of the signs of human trafficking and what to do when they spot it. In addition to calling the state anti-trafficking tip line, Pate said someone can call 911 if they suspect an emergency. People can also dial 800-770-1650 or text "IOWAHELP" to 20121. Other resources are on the Iowa Attorney General's website.
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