Tuesday, 7 December 2021

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Human TraffickingThere are nearly 30 million victims of forced labor and human trafficking in a $150 billion industry globally. Unfortunately, the Hampton Roads region isn’t exempt from this activity. The Chesapeake Fire Department has focused on the issue of human trafficking. Their goals, and perhaps the goals that your EMS agency and fire department might set as well, are:
• To be cognizant of the subversive culture of sex and labor slavery and its existence in Hampton Roads
• To be mindful that this culture involves extremely dangerous criminals and horrendously victimized human beings
• To act as an organization in a manner that denies safe harbor for sex and labor criminal systems.

Where do first responders fit in?

Public safety workers have a high likelihood of encountering a victim of sex or labor trafficking, and this may be an opportunity for the victim to escape their captor. Here are some signs of a trafficking operation:
• Behavior does not make sense: Evades touch or assessment, declines transport, no ID or proof of address, avoids being seen by others, responses seem rehearsed, programmed to distrust, watched by others, won’t leave, speak or implicate
• Unusual surroundings: Appears to live at work, no furniture in the house, no dressed properly, numerous beds, heavy security, workers enter/exit as a group, covered windows, a boss is watching every move
• Physical or medical issue: Overdose, lethargic, altered level of consciousness, abdominal pain, UTI, vaginal bleeding, assault, pregnancy, post-abortion, traumatic injury, bruise patterns, environmental exposure.

What should you do?

• If you suspect or know a person or group is a victim of trafficking or enslaved, request a police officer to the scene. An officer will report to an investigator according to their internal procedures.
• A few simple questions can open a door for a victim who never had the option. “Are you being held against your will?” or “Do you need immediate rescue from the people who are controlling you?” or “There are a lot of good people who want to set you free. Do you want that?” are all examples.
• Educate yourself, and resolve to be part of the solution.


Your local law enforcement, Commonwealth Attorney, Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, the Virginia Attorney General, FBI, Homeland security and a host of non-governmental organization are all in this fight. The Polaris Project is perhaps the most recognized global leader in this fight with information and a model for freeing and helping survivors. The regional non-governmental rescue/recovery organization in this area is Virginia Beach Justice Initiative. Here is a link to a 7-minute video from the Department of Homeland Security called Human Trafficking Awareness Video for first responders.

There are many more sources of information such as:
www.fbi.gov/investigate/civil-rights/human-trafficking - US facts and cases from the FBI
National Human trafficking Resource Center 888-373-7888 - world-wide victim advocacy group
www.missingkids.com – missing children, some locally. Learn ways to protect your own.
www.vaamberalert.com – Virginia Amber Alert.
www.nij.gov/topics/crime/human-trafficking/pages/welcome.aspx - more facts from the National Institute of Justice
www.cnn.com/2015/09/02/us/human-trafficking-branding-survivors-ink - short video which tells the power of tattoo.
www.cox11.com/in-plain-sight-human-trafficking - a 4-segment documentary which tells the story of a local survivor.
http://ag.virginia.gov/programs-initiatives/human-trafficking?id=222 – resources from the Virginia Attorney General

Thanks to the Chesapeake Fire Department for bringing this issue to our attention and for most of the content in this article.

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