Human trafficking: 'People don’t think it happens here'

Human trafficking is happening everywhere now, even in small rural areas like the Village of Oak Creek. Because larger cities’ police departments have done a good job of educating larger communities, traffickers are now also targeting small towns where there may be more of a sense of complacency and safety.

“People don’t think that it happens here", said Andrea Kadar, a representative of the Verde Valley Coalition Against Human Trafficking (VVCAHT), who spoke at the Big Park Council meeting on Thursday, April 13. Her message was whether you are an organization or an individual; you can play a significant role in eradicating human trafficking in our community.

The VVCAHT is a network of diverse groups including law enforcement, schools, faith based organizations, businesses, first responders, community organizations, government agencies, and direct service providers in the Verde Valley, partnering to eradicate human trafficking through education, advocacy and assistance to survivors.

According to VVCAHT, sex trafficking occurs when someone uses force, fraud or coercion that results in “a commercial sex act with an adult or causes a minor to commit a commercial sex act.”

The average age of entry for youth into sex trafficking in Arizona is 14 years old. Traffickers recruit at malls, bus stops, and concerts, through social media/chat rooms and even send recruiters to school areas and lure them through promises of protection, love, adventure, travel and opportunity.

Recognize the signals of potential recruitment. According to EndSexTrafficking.AZ.gov http://endsextrafficking.az.gov/ , victims may display various signs including running away/couch surfing; sudden possession of expensive clothing, purses or electronics; sudden change in dress/appearance; surprising change in friendships/relationships; signs of physical abuse; presence of, or reference to older boyfriend or gang affiliation.

Learn more at EndSexTrafficking.AZ.gov http://endsextrafficking.az.gov/ . To report sex trafficking call 1-888-373-7888.

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