3 things you should know about Northern Arizona Coalition Against Human Trafficking
1 The coalition complements the sheriff’s office
Signs of trafficking
An older boyfriend
Expensive gifts, like clothing, purses or electronics
Sudden change in friendships and relationships
Sudden change in dress or appearance
Uncharacteristic promiscuous behavior, as well as STDs.
Signs of physical abuse
The Northern Arizona Coalition Against Human Trafficking is dedicated to informing the public on how to spot the signs leading up to trafficking, as well as the ways young people, often homeless youth or other children who are vulnerable, are pulled into the life of human trafficking.
The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office sets up stings to make arrests against traffickers. Lieutenant Tom Boelts explained that the sheriff’s office has stopped viewing the youth involved with trafficking as prostitutes, and instead now views them as victims.
“I realized… there needed to be a paradigm shift in the way that we dealt with this issue in law enforcement,” Boelt said. “We can identify the victims fairly easily. The Johns, it’s not so easy. They look like the men in this room, from all walks of life.”
Boelts says the coalition aids in the fight against trafficking in ways the sheriff’s office cannot.
“This coalition has been unbelievable. It’s the only one I’m aware of like it in the state. The coalition has been instrumental getting to word out to kids…and in spreading awareness to adults, too,” Boelt said.
2 The coalition fundraised $8,500 Saturday evening
Over 100 people attended the coalition fundraiser at the home of Sedona residents Mike and Christine Schroeder Saturday evening. A silent auction raised money through donated prizes from local Sedona businesses.
The coalition raised an estimated $8,500 after expenses, which will be used to bring experts from groups like Red Light Rebellion to speak to local schools. The funds will also bring in survivor speakers, print literature and cover other coalition expenses. Coalition treasurer and vice mayor of Sedona John Martinez says the coalition hopes to conduct outreach to Native American communities as well.
3 Yavapai County says stings get less calls
Boelts and Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk were the key speakers at the fundraiser. Boelts spoke of the history of sex trafficking in Yavapai County and the high call volume the sheriff’s office received during its initial sting in 2014. Polk gave statistics of sex trafficking and answered questions on why it is difficult for the county to prosecute sex trafficking cases. Often times, victims do not want to testify against their captors.
“One of the challenges that we encounter is oftentimes the victims don’t see themselves as victims. They think they love their trafficker,” Polk said.
Despite this, Boelts says the amount of calls the sheriff’s office receives in the stings has decreased, meaning reduce in demand for underage sex. Another tactic in cutting demand is public shaming via the internet and local newspapers.
“Sex trafficking in this country is truly modern day slavery,” Polk said. “Let’s make Arizona a flyover state for pimps and traffickers. Let’s make Arizona a state where if they do come here and we catch them, they face what they face here in Yavapai County – they face long prison sentences.”
What is NACAHT?
The Northern Arizona Coalition Against Human Trafficking, formerly known as the Verde Valley Coalition Against Human Trafficking, is a local organization dedicated to informing the public on the ways young people are pulled into human trafficking and how to spot the signs.
The coalition, made up entirely of activist volunteers, have presented to over 860 people – 250 were Sedona Red Rock High School students.
For more information or for those who wish to donate to the coalition: www.caht-naz.org.