DETROIT (WWJ) - With the North American International Auto Show opening Saturday at Detroit's Cobo Center, federal authorities warning the public about several common human trafficking indicators because demand for commercial sex services increases around high-profile events.
Agents say human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security (HSI) investigates. In its worst manifestation, human trafficking is akin to modern-day slavery. Victims pay to be illegally transported into the United States only to find themselves in the thrall of traffickers. They are forced into prostitution, involuntary labor and other forms of servitude to repay debts – often after entry in the United States, officials say.
In certain cases, the victims are mere children. They find themselves surrounded by an unfamiliar culture and language without identification documents, fearing for their lives and the lives of their families. And sex traffickers don't just target foreign nationals for exploitation; many traffickers ensnare American born victims.
To bring awareness to this issue, HSI has partnered with the U.S. Attorney's Office to educate the public on key human trafficking indicators.
"Victims and their families are often intimidated into compliance with the threat of violence and other forms of abusive coercion," special agent Marlon Miller said in a statement. "An educated public can help law enforcement rescue individuals in these situations and ensure those committing these acts are brought to justice."
Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is necessary to identify victims and can help save a life, Miller said. Not all indicators listed below are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking.
HSI urges the public not attempt to confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert a victim to any suspicions. Instead, call 911.
· Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations or houses of worship?
· Has a child stopped attending school?
· Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
· Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
· Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
· Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
· Is the person fearful, timid or submissive?
· Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep or medical care?
· Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
· Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
· Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
· Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
· Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
Anyone who notices suspicious activity is urged to contact HSI through its tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or www.ice.gov/tips.
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