Preventing Human Trafficking Safety Tips

Preventing Human Trafficking

By Ken Malcom, Candidate for Sheriff of Newton County

If you are a Facebook or Instagram user, you have probably seen it.

A friend of a friend recounted someone’s experience in a parking lot of a shopping center, where a parent and child met a strange person and engaged in a brief, unwanted interaction that left the parent terrified. The post mentioned how close the parent came to seeing the child kidnapped in plain sight, and how vigilant we all must be to protect our families.

One such story was posted on social media after a person in our own community was seen in a public place and caused a near-panic. What was he doing? He was passing out flyers that advertised some of the ministries in his local church. That was it. But many passersby became frantic and shared breathless online warnings about “human trafficking.”

Those two words are in quotes not because they are to be dismissed. Human trafficking is a real problem across the country and around the world, with law enforcement at all levels working to address it. The metro Atlanta area is considered a hub for this activity, as it is for many other forms of illegal conduct. But too many people who talk about human trafficking on social media do not truly understand what it is. Until it is understood, it cannot be dealt with properly.

Back to the encounter in the parking lot. Contrary to the images we have seen often in movies and television shows, the chances of a child being snatched at random from a parking lot, put in a van and sped away are extremely rare. That’s just not how it works. You are far more likely to be a victim of a non-violent crime like theft then being kidnapped while in public. Sometimes you will be approached by a stranger who creeps you out, but it doesn’t mean that person intends to harm you.

One of the most common ways a predator lures a victim into human trafficking is by meeting a basic need. The victim is often provided food, clothing, protection, drugs, sustenance or other needs in return for servitude. Many times the victim enters the relationship willingly based on promises made by the perpetrator and is unable to leave. Law enforcement experts agree that the most common form of entry into human trafficking is the voluntary entry by the victim, and many times the victim and perpetrator start out in a boyfriend-girlfriend type of relationship that turns sinister. A bond is developed to the point that the victim actually loves and will protect the perpetrator at all costs.

Another common form of human trafficking involves the importation of victims into the country. These victims are brought here with promises of citizenship but, upon arrival, are subjected to involuntary sexual or labor servitude (human trafficking is not always sexual but also involves forced labor). Many times these victims are promised freedom after an undetermined amount of time (working off their dues for their trip). Unfortunately, they are never granted freedom, but rather are transported frequently to various locations and cities across the United States. These victims are reluctant to escape their situations due to various reasons that include fear of reprisal from their captors, fear of prosecution by law enforcement, deportation, or having nowhere to go after leaving.

These two scenarios are by far the most likely ways for people to be ensnared in the world of human trafficking. We should not be in fear of going out in public with our children, but there is always the potential for danger. What should the average person do to be careful without being unduly paranoid or causing unnecessary panic?

Be aware of your surroundings. The most likely place for a stranger to attempt to do you harm is between the time you get out of your car in the parking lot and the moment you walk into a place of business. Call them “Point A” and “Point B.” You need to know what is going on around you when you are between Point A and Point B.

If someone actually does approach you with malicious intent, you should have a plan in advance for how you will deal with it. If you carry pepper spray, you need to know how it works and how to use it. If you need to engage in a physical altercation (which is extremely rare), know how to attack your opponent’s weaknesses and which parts of the body are the best places to strike.

As is the case with any suspicious activity, it is paramount that you notify law enforcement immediately. Try to give as many details as possible which could be helpful in an investigation, from physical descriptions of the assailants to whatever vehicles they may be driving.

If you or someone you know is a victim, call the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or send a text to the hotline at 233733.

The better we understand the potential dangers in the world around us, and the better prepared we are to face them, the safer all of us — including our children — will be.