January is Human Trafficking Awareness month.
Law enforcement and service agencies in the Lowcountry joined forces Wednesday to draw attention to the problem.. and point out the signs something criminal may be going on.
“You need to be concerned if they are having a lot of absences from school, missing a lot on weekends, they cant tell you where they’ve been they look malnourished or tired and detaching from peers. They are with someone who is not allowing them to speak for themselves.”
“As they start to add up. Is the child walking around with multiple cell phones, are they walking around with multiple motel keys. Are they dressing in a more provocative manner.”
Those are just some of the warning signs a child or young adult may be being trafficked.
This seminar brought together stakeholders, human rights and abuse support agencies, law enforcement and the legal community to talk about those signs, and the new challenges when it comes to this growing problem.
“Young adults and our children are worth up to 300,000 to them (traffickers) and because of that it’s easy to take the time to make it happen,” explained Sheila Roemeling of the Lowcountry Human Trafficking Task Force. “These people don’t need more than one or two girls to make real money.”
“All that is happening now through the internet,” explained 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone. “It is not a brick and mortar world. It’s not a world now where you can just put a security system on your door and expect that bad people won’t get access to your children.”
Greater access now than ever, through a cell phone and the internet. Hidden dangers that kids know more about than parents and prosecutors are learning more about every day.
“You have cell towers, you have data inside the phone, you have the phone bouncing off other towers and people’s cell phones. There is so much that is commonplace in the case we have now you have to embrace it and you have to use it,” explained Stone.
Use it to catch the men and women who are using kids, teens even adults for illegal and immoral reasons. All for the almighty dollar.
As for the victims themselves, they can come from anywhere. They face sexual and physical abuse by their “pimps”, or captors, all for a dollar and because someone wasn’t watching as closely as they should be.
“You can sell a drug one time but when you sell a child or an adult, young adult it doesn’t matter, you are selling them 10, 20, 30 times a day lets say at an average of $100 a service,’ details Roemling. “That adds up pretty big in a year and it only takes a trafficker one or two to make lots of money.”
To learn more about the Lowcountry Human Trafficking Task Force, click here.
To learn more about the organization, and the signs of human trafficking, visit Fresh Start Healing Heart’s website here.