Signs of Trafficking

One sunny afternoon in North East LA I was looking at apartment rentals. I found a place with an amazing price, but when I arrived the inside was fairly dilapidated. Disappointed I began to walk back to my car. When I noticed a white van parked in front of my car I cautiously made my way around it, got in my car, and locked the doors. As I looked up I saw a teen girl sitting along side a building. Her skirt was short, she had no phone, purse, book, or other possessions to pass the time, and she would not make eye contact with me. Adding the nearby van to the young girl, I wasn’t comfortable leaving the situation as it was.

As I sat and struggled with how to respond an officer parked and walked up to my window. He asked me why I was sitting there. I told him that something felt wrong about the situation and explained what I was seeing. He and I talked about a human trafficking course he recently completed and he promised to park across the street and remain there as long as possible as well as investigate further.

Have you ever seen something and wondered if trafficking might be happening in your neighborhood? Here are some signs to look out for.

  • A person who is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
  • Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior
  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Poor Physical Health
  • Lacks health care
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
  • Lack of Control
  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
  • Is afraid of law enforcement or receiving help from an outside entity.

unnamed-1How can we change the story?

We can be part of changing and preventing trafficking in our communities. Each survivor has a story that includes some one else stepping in to the situation. Together we can improve awareness and prevention.

To request help or report suspected human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Or text HELP to: BeFree (233733).
If it is safe to do so:

  • Ask the person if you can help them find a safe place to go immediately.
  • If they need time, create an action plan with them to get to a safe place when they are ready.
  • Call and make a report to the human trafficking hotline at 1.888.373.7888.  The hotline has language capabilities, so any individual can call directly if they choose.

If you are still unsure what might be the best action to take you can call and talk through the case with USCCB Anti-trafficking program staff at 202.541.3357.

We are making progress.

If you find yourself in a situation much like the ones described above remember what you have learned here and reach out for help. Together we can fight against trafficking and change lives.

-Jessika Fuhrmaneck