January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, millions of people around the world become victims of human trafficking. With today’s modern technology, people are often advertised online.
“Human trafficking is the sale of another person for any purpose. We primarily work with child sex trafficking but it is also consist of labor trafficking and exploitation as well,” says Matthew Smith, Executive Director of Operation Shield, a local non-profit working to stop human trafficking.
Backpage and Craigslist are a few of the most popular sites for traffickers and our area is not immune to the problem.
“In 2017 we’ve had 23 cases that I’m aware of, cases that involved children under the age of 18. For a town the size of Idaho Falls, yes that’s a problem.”
Kids can often fall victims to this crime too but there are ways for parents to prevent it.
“Be aware of what your children are doing online. Most of the kids that are being groomed into human trafficking are being groomed online first. They really shouldn’t have a social media friend that they haven’t met in person.”
It’s important to also know who your child’s friends are. Sometimes kids are coerced into running away.
“It’s about 14 percent of the cases, typically most of them end up running away into the arms of someone that they think is their boyfriend and it just ends up they had an agenda to put them up for sale.”
Local law enforcement is also trained on how to deal with rescuing victims of trafficking. If you have any suspicions that someone may be a victim of this, contact local law enforcement or Operation Shield at 208-534-8303.