Local reporters looking for a story that links the rest of the world with Main Street should pay attention to the growing atrocity of human trafficking.
“You say human trafficking, and people think…international cabal, organized crime, kids coming from Southeast Asia in cages. That’s not what it is,” says Montgomery County (MD) Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Mays, who has prosecuted numerous sex trafficking cases in recent years. “Most of it is homegrown guys who are exploiting vulnerable women and children in their own communities, or traveling them around, up and down the East Coast.” — Human Trafficking in Montgomery County, Bethesda Magazine
According to the Polaris Project, a group that helps victims of trafficking, sex trafficking accounts for 71 percent of the calls to their hotline. Labor trafficking takes up another 16 percent. of the 5,000 cases opened during 2014. The cases are active investigations that came from more than 24,000 calls to the Polaris hotline, seeking help.
The International Labor Organization estimates 14.2 million people are in forced labor circumstances.
The Bethesda Magazine article says more reports come in each day as more people become aware that human trafficking is not something far away, but rather something much closer.
“The numbers seem low, and I think what in reality is happening is we’re seeing human trafficking kind of emerge like domestic violence did 30 years ago,” says Amanda Rodriguez, who until recently oversaw human trafficking policy at the [Maryland’s] Office of Crime Control and Prevention. “The more people are becoming aware, the more these numbers are going to go up, because it is absolutely happening next door and in the community.”
The issue involves Americans and foreign nationals caught up in one of the most dangerous and demeaning crimes in the world. And it does not just involve — as the primary case in the Bethesda Magazine article — household employees of diplomats.
“Common types of labor trafficking in the United States include people forced to work in homes as domestic servants, farm workers coerced through violence as they harvest crops, or factory workers held in inhumane conditions,” says the Polaris Project. “Labor trafficking has also been reported in door-to-door sales crews, carnivals, and health and beauty services.”
Just about every news outlet in the United States has an audience that includes the people mentioned above. Therefore, there is no reason to not look into local labor and working conditions.
This is perhaps one of the darkest and most gruesome links between Main Street and the rest of the world. And, unfortunately, it is not limited to international trafficking.
Increasingly sex trafficking…sex trafficking is taking place in well-appointed hotels that do not fit into the red-light district stereotype of eras past. In August, Armand Theinkue Donfack, a Germantown (MD) soccer coach, was charged with prostitution and human trafficking after an undercover sting at a hotel off I-270.
I orginally posted this piece on the International Journalism Community of the SPJ.