Human Trafficking is a fancy label for the business of forcing someone to be a sex slave; their services bought and sold against their will. It's not just a big city problem, and it's happening closer to home, than you may think.
Former Iowa Senator Maggie Tinsman has made it her mission to raise awareness, she says it all started when a colleague told her human trafficking was a problem in her neck of the woods.
That's when she decided to get legislation passed to put traffickers in jail, "He looked at me and said, where are you from Senator? When I said Iowa, he said, you're perfect, you're on Interstate 80, you're on interstate 35 and 74, you have a giant rural area in which to hide it, but the main thing you have is an attitude that it's not here, that's exactly where it is," said Tinsman.
Now, local organizations and police are actively pursuing traffickers. 'Braking Traffik' Volunteers make it their mission to combat human trafficking in our area. Along with police, they fight a crime that is designed to stay hidden. Now, local organizations and police are actively pursuing traffickers.
Cathy O'Keefe monitors the internet for possible signs of human trafficking in the Quad Cities, "This site is one where you can sell items, so you can post ads to sell a car, to sell a sofa, whatever, but this site also has an escort section to it. If you have several individuals all linked to the same phone number, definitely that's suspicious."
O'Keefe's team of volunteers also pays special attention to postings that could be advertising minors.
"The pictures do not show her face, so that can sometimes be a red flag that she could potentially be under the age of 18."
In fact, teenagers are most at risk for being trafficked. The average age of human trafficking victims is 13.
"It's a terrible situation because traffickers have so much leverage often times over the people being trafficked," said Davenport Police Chief Frank Donchez, who says they too investigate escort sites to tap in to this underground society.
"The Meg Unit and the Davenport Police TOB, they check those web sites and in the course of their prostitution investigations also have in the back of their mind, could this or could this not be a human trafficking case?"
Just last month, 26 people were arrested on prostitution charges in a sting in Muscatine, but one person is charged with human trafficking.
"The fact it happened in Muscatine, certainly tells me it can happen in Davenport and so again the most positive thing we can do is be vigilant," said Chief Donchez.
So, how are these criminals flying under the radar when the evidence is in plain sight?
"They say their site is not intended for prostitution, it is merely intended for people to get to know one another or to set up a date, and that if people are misusing the site, that they don't take responsibility for that," said O'Keefe.
Here's some helpful links for information on Human Trafficking:
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