Modern slavery is all around us
WHAT TO DO
If you suspect human trafficking, call 1-866-455-5075 for a Colorado hotline or 1-888-373-7888 for a national hotline.
SIGNS OF TRAFFICKING
A person may be trafficked if they:
• Cannot leave their work environment or cannot quit to find another job.
• Do not have control over their wages or finances.
• Show signs of physical abuse or injury.
• Are accompanied everywhere by someone who speaks for them.
• Appear to be fearful of or under the control of another person.
• Have unaddressed health issues.
• Owe money to an employer or another person whom they feel bound to repay.
• Describe moving or changing jobs suddenly and often.
• Are unfamiliar with the neighborhood where they live or work.
• Are traveling with minimal or inappropriate luggage/belongings.
• Lack identification, passport or other travel documents or do not have control over their documentation.
• Are a laborer, domestic servant or caretaker but never leave the home or workplace.
• Are not allowed to socialize or attend religious services.
Without knowing it, you probably have encountered modern slavery, which generates $150 billion a year worldwide.
Perhaps you’ve met a contract cleaning worker who doesn’t speak English. Though not every such worker is in this spot, that person may lack documentation, may rely on a supervisor for transportation and housing, and may not control any money they are “paid.”
Or, maybe at a convenience store, you’ve run into a young woman traveling without a family and minimal personal goods. She could be a runaway being driven from, say, Las Vegas to Denver, stopping in motel rooms along the way in spots such as Glenwood Springs to turn tricks.
Chances are even better that you and your pets have eaten seafood from slaves — the title of this year’s winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service by the Associated Press about the Southeast Asian fishing industry. The report led to the release of more than 2,000 slaves and traced the seafood they caught to supermarkets and pet food providers across the U.S.
Peggy Steldt of Carbondale wants you to know that “human trafficking isn’t just something that happens in Asia with people peeling shrimp. It can happen here, to women and children of any income level.”
And she wants you to learn more. As a volunteer, she has organized Shine the Light of the Roaring Fork Valley, which will present a free public awareness forum on human trafficking from 7-9 p.m. May 2 at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. The session will include presenters from the Denver-based Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking, the Colorado Human Trafficking Council and the 9th Judicial District.
Lisa Miller, chief investigator for the 9th District Attorney’s Office, said human trafficking prosecutions are uncommon in Garfield County, but authorities hear of prostitution operations set up in local motels, often as people pass through en route to Denver.
Four men were charged in 2012 for running a child prostitution and drug ring that included setting up appointments over the Internet to meet girls in Glenwood Springs.
Miller and DA Investigator Lee Damuth last fall helped with a sting operation in the Front Range that rescued 20 teenage victims and arrested seven pimps. She said one of the girls rescued had been brought from Las Vegas and stopped in small towns along the way, including Glenwood.
“These girls are plied with drugs, meth, heroin,” Miller said. If one is taken off the streets, “a pimp somewhere is upset about his commodity. In some cases, that can cost him thousands of dollars a day.”
Miller said a pimp can make $350,000-$500,000 a year per victim. Some girls, she said, are physically branded as property of a pimp.
Law enforcement, she said, is undergoing a paradigm shift that sees such women as victims needing help. They commit a crime, but are forced to do so, she said.
“This is an issue coming to prominence in Colorado,” Miller said.
Said Steldt, “Where you have money and people willing to pay for labor services or sex services, trafficking comes up.”