According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 800,000 children go missing in the United States each year. That is nearly 2,185 every day. How does this happen in a country that prides itself on law, justice, and everything good? How much situational awareness do we have? I have noticed an interesting trend in among our fellow Americans. The trend is simple. If something does not touch our insulated world or world view, we pay little attention to it. This trend makes it easy for unspeakable things to go on around us, often with our unwitting support. Human Trafficking is going on all around us and is growing at an epidemic rate.
The average age of a girl in the sex trafficking world is 13 years old. These children are often recruited by other kids in their own middle schools and high schools. The would-be recruiters look for the awkward, lonely kid who doesn’t fit in and befriend them. Other times they seek out kids who are seeking adventure and are willing to take risks. Still others exploit kids in foster care or who are in fractured families. Those recruitments often take months of grooming and slow introductions to people inside the trafficking world before the set-up. The set-up often happens in a variety of ways as the “boy friend” suddenly identifies himself as a pimp and brutally rapes his prey. Another common ploy is an express rape, where the girl is lured away on a weekend adventure so that no one will come looking for her. The weekend adventure suddenly turns into a nightmare of being drugged and repeatedly raped and photographed in order to gain psychological control of the victim. Many of these cases lead to the victim being trafficked in plain site while living right in their own home. The plain site numbers are not captured in the 800,000 children missing a year.
Abductions are incredibly common but are often targeted. Trafficking organizations love to target runaways because they are already missing. These teens make it easy for trafficking networks to remain under the radar. In other cases, kidnappers are given a shopping menu for their clients and start looking for the human that fits the menu request. These menus are often bizarre and include everything from handicapped children, to blond haired and blue eyes infants. These cases always start with surveillance, most often beginning with looking a social media postings. They progress to identifying their prey, observing their daily travel patterns, and planning a kidnapping. In rare cases, traffickers acquire a target of opportunity and just kidnap them off the street. We have interviewed several woman who were being stalked by human trafficking organizations. These women describe being followed on foot and by vans as the traffickers tried to set up a location where they could conduct a kidnapping. I would be skeptical if I heard this story only one time. Unfortunately, the many stories I hear are completely unrelated and amazingly similar.
Captive Audience PTRT has several recommendations to improve your situational awareness.
- Pay attention to what you are posting on social media. Do not post your home address, or geolocated photos of your home. Do not use the check in features, and wait until after the event is over to post pictures of an event. Avoid photos that might draw the attention of a trafficker.
- Pay attention to your neighborhood, and know what right looks like. Get to know your neighbors and know who is living up and down your street.
- Don’t be an oblivion by being so focused on your phone or device that you are not paying attention when you are not at home. Know who is around you at all times.
- Pay attention to peoples watches, shoes, hands, and eyes. People who switch disguises rarely change their shoes or watches and their hands and eyes are generally the same. If you see someone once that is normal, but twice over time and space is a little weird, and three times over time and space means you are being followed. Are you paying enough attention to notice? How about your kids?
- Trust your gut, you will always know before you are in danger if your trust your gut. Never be afraid to speak up if something does not feel right and never feel obligated to continue going down a path that you feel is not wise. This is not paranoia, it is just wisdom.
Your personal security is your own responsibility. While we don’t want people being paranoid, we do want people to pay attention to the world around them. We don’t want people to be victimized. We want the bad guys to have to work harder or fail at their attempts to take people captive. The responsibility is yours.