Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide. Especially here in the United States and especially here in Utah. Whether it's violence, manipulation, false promises of wealth, or a romantic relationship many victims are in fear of seeking help. This makes human trafficking a hidden crime often experienced in the shadows of society.
Traffickers often look for people who are easy targets. These victims are seen as emotionally vulnerable, might have some sort of financial hardship, or they might lack any kind of social support.
So in a State like Utah, often viewed as a religious state with weird alcohol laws, is it a problem and should we be concerned? The answer is an emphatic "YES!" Every state should be concerned as Human Trafficking does not discriminate. It does not take a day off. For human trafficking cases Utah has been ranked #33 in the United States, ranked #36 in the number of human trafficking victims, #31 in sex trafficking statistics, and #42 in labor trafficking statistics.
Social media is a predators paradise. In a world of social media a predator can find any information they want to know on an unsuspecting victim. In Utah we have a multitude of privately owned massage parlors that are nefarious in nature. Simple internet ads, like "Craigs List" can also be used to access potential victims.
What makes Utah unique is that we have a freeway system in Interstate 15 that goes from North to South: Mexico to Canada and runs directly through Utah. Interstate 80 runs East to West directly through Utah. So if human trafficking doesn't originate in Utah you know it's passing through.
But if you stay around populated areas surely you should be safe right? Well in 2022 one teenager was taken from a packed American Airlines Center during an NBA game. How did they get her out of the arena you might ask? Well remember we mentioned manipulation? This teenager thought it was a simple lets hang out request, until it wasn't.
Well it's not always about sex trafficking. Recently Utah had some labor trafficking hit the news. One landscaping company allegedly recruited from Mexico and guaranteed a forty-hour work week as well as assistance in obtaining a VISA to work in the country. However, reportedly no pay was received.
So pay attention to these red flags and ask these questions.
Does the victim live with their employer?
How are the living conditions?
Are there multiple people in a cramped space?
Are you able to speak to the victim alone without interference from the possible predator?
Are the answers scripted or rehearsed?
Are the employers (possible predators) holding the victim's identity documents?
Are there signs of physical abuse?
Is the victim submissive or fearful? Have they or their family been threatened?
Are they paid? How much are they paid for their work?
What is their age? Do they appear to be engaged in prostitution?
If you are concerned about the possibility of human trafficking you can contact the number below:
National Human Trafficking Hotline
For Emergencies call 911