DeKalb's police officers take part in human trafficking training

DeKalb's police officers take part in human trafficking training

PHOTO: Police Officers from local departments receive instruction on human trafficking from former Federal Agent Rick Tate of the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force. (Contributed Photo)

By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor 

FORT PAYNE, Ala. — Thursday, police officers from all over DeKalb County took part in Human Trafficking Training at the Fort Payne Police Department. A representative from Homeland Security provided instruction on "The Blue Campaign" and Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force Director Rick Tate also provided training on how to spot the signs of trafficking.

The training was coordinated by the DeKalb County Chiefs of Police Association and conducted in two separate classes at the Fort Payne Police Department. Officers from Fyffe, Sylvania, Fort Payne, Hammondville, Rainsville, Powell, Mentone, Collinsville, Henagar, Geraldine, and Crossville took part in the training. Officers received 3 hours of APOST credits for attending the course.

"End it Alabama"

The convergence of several major highways in DeKalb County, along with I-59 passing through, makes our area part of the frontline in the war on human trafficking. These classes were the first to be held in DeKalb County on this critical issue.

The "Blue Campaign" is an initiative by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to combat human trafficking. According to literature from DHS, "Blue Campaign is the unified voice for the DHS' efforts to combat human trafficking. Working in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental, and private organizations, Blue Campaign strives to protect the basic rights of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice."

While many think of sexual exploitation when they think of human trafficking, the representative from DHS also stressed the need for officers to be alert for labor smuggling. As the agent explained, local businesses, such as those in the poultry industry for example, may smuggle groups of illegal workers in to work for lower wages and without paying taxes. While this may not seem as urgent of an issue as sexual exploitation, these illegal workers both take jobs from legal U.S. workers and are themselves exploited for very little pay.

The DHS representative also highlighted the differences between "human trafficking" and "human smuggling." Trafficking is defined as, "sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery."

"Human Smuggling," is defined as, "the importation of people into the Untied States involving deliberate evasions of Immigration Laws. This offense includes bringing illegal aliens into the United States as well as the unlawful transportation and harboring of aliens already in the United States."

In essence, the difference between "Smuggling" and "Trafficking" is that smuggling is transportation based and trafficking is based on exploitation.

Law enforcement officers were given cards with information on the indicators of human trafficking, with separate cards for medical indicators for fire/EMS.

Recognizing the combined signs will help first responders accurately alert local or federal authorities. Your actions could save a life!

Indicators for Law Enforcement to look for are:

  • Is the victim in possession of identification and travel documents; if not, who has control of the documents?
  • Was the victim coached on what to say to law enforcement and immigration officials?
  • Was the victim recruited for one purpose and forced to engage in some other job?
  • Is the victim's salary being garnished to pay off a smuggling fee? (Paying off a smuggling fee alone is not considered trafficking.)
  • Was the victim forced to perform sexual acts?
  • Does the victim have freedom of movement?
  • Has the victim or family been threatened with harm if the victim attempts to escape?
  • Has the victim been threatened with deportation or law enforcement action?
  • Has the victim been harmed or deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care, or other life necessities?
  • Can the victim freely contact friends or family?
  • Is the victim a juvenile engaged in commercial sex?
  • Is the victim allowed to socialize or attend religious services?

Indicators for Fire/EMS to look for:

  •  Bruises/wounds in various stages of healing or consistent with the application of physical restraints.
  • Scars, mutilations, or untreated infections.
  • Urinary difficulties, pelvic pain, pregnancy, or rectal trauma (from working in the sex industry).
  • Chronic back, hearing, eye/eyesight, cardiovascular, or respiratory problems
  • Malnourishment, serious dental problems, or a lack of healthcare
  • Disoriented, confused, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid behavior

Addition indicators of human trafficking: 

  • Is the victim accompanied by another person who is controlling, provides the victim's information, or who does all the communicating?
  • Does the victim have trouble communicating due to a language/cultural barrier?
  • Does the victim seem submissive or fearful, refuse to make eye contact, or seem afraid to speak in the presence of others?
  • Does the victim seem confused, claim to just be visiting, or seem unable to identify his or her location?
  • Is the victim reluctant to discuss his or her injury(yes) or are there inconsistencies in his or her account/medical history?
  • Is the victim inadequately dressed for the situation/work he or she does?
  • Are there security measures designed to restrict victim movement (blocked/barred windows, locked doors, barbed wire, security cameras)?
  • Does the victim live in a degraded, unsuitable place or share sleeping quarters?

Report suspicious activity to local law enforcement or call 1-866-347-2423.