Phoenix training city employees to spot potential victims of human trafficking

Published: Sunday, February 13, 2022 - 11:34pm
Updated: Monday, February 14, 2022 - 9:59am

Phoenix has a goal to train 60% of city employees on ways to spot potential human trafficking victims.

Human trafficking happens when someone is forced or tricked into commercial sex or labor services against their will. In the case of children, the National Human Trafficking Hotline says, “force, fraud or coercion need not be present if the individual engaging in commercial sex is under 18.”

Stacey Sutherland leads Training and Resources United to Stop Trafficking (TRUST), an organization that provides education and resources. TRUST is involved in training city workers.

“When you talk about, you know parks and rec employees, street employees, transportation, they’re interfacing with the community every day, they’re in different parts of town,” she said. “If I’m sitting in my office all day I’m not interacting with the public, I’m not driving up and down the road and they have the ability to spot some red flags and potentially report that as a tip or a victimization and things.

She said 1,254 Phoenix employees have been trained. The city has more than 14,000 employees.

According to Phoenix’s Human Trafficking Task Force, the average age of entry into commercial sex trafficking is 14. In 2020, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received more than 600 calls and tips from Arizona.

The National Hotline provides resources for victims and also accepts reports about potential victims at 1.888.373.7888 (TTY: 711). People can also text 233733, and there’s a chat option at www.humantraffickinghotline.org/chat

Innocents at Risk has a list of warning signs for a trafficked person that include:

  • Have injuries or signs of physical abuse.
  • Appear malnourished.
  • Seem disoriented and not know where her or she is.
  • Have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes regardless of the weather or circumstances.
  • Not have identification documents.
  • Avoid eye contact and appear hesitant to talk to strangers.
  • Be fearful of authority figures, especially law enforcement.
  • Rarely be allowed to come and go independently and may be accompanied by someone who controls their every movement.
  • Work excessively long hours.
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