ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – A new “in your face” weapon has just been unveiled in the fight against human trafficking.
A big battle in that fight is just getting people to realize it’s happening in St. Louis. A conference on human trafficking in St. Louis a couple of months ago opened the eyes of the National Council of Jewish Women here so much, the council felt it had to do something. It started with a newspaper ad and just graduated to high profile signs at both terminals of Lambert Airport.
The things you see when you get off an airplane have a way of sticking with you, even if you don’t realize it.
“Can you see her?” “Can you see him?” the large, lighted, signs ask. They are part of the Department of Homeland Security’s “Blue Campaign” to recognize human trafficking: young victims of the sex trade and forced labor.
Photos on underground web-sites have shown victims in hotel rooms with St. Louis landmarks like the Edward Jones Dome and the Old Courthouse in the background.
“A perpetrator can troll a mall and zone in on someone who is not feeling so great, and just say, ‘you know, you’re such a pretty girl. I think you ought to be in modeling’,” said Darien Arnstein of the National Council of Jewish Women –St. Louis. “ ‘Let me talk to you about that.’ Before you know it, she’s trapped or he’s trapped.”
The FBI has stepped up raids in recent years – still the epidemic persists: the National Human Trafficking Resource Center reports more than 4,000 cases this year in the U.S. That includes 42 in Missouri, 90 in Illinois. Human trafficking is considered to be vastly underreported.
“It is in the United States. It is in St. Louis. It’s in our backyard,” Arnstein said.
Next month is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. There will be a rally at the state capitol, January 26th, to urge lawmakers to tighten trafficking laws in Missouri.
To report suspected human trafficking call 1-866-347-2423.
To get help from the National Human Trafficking Resource center call 1-888-373-788 or text help or info to BEFREE (233733).