Did you know that trafficking of persons is happening in the United States? Did you know, in the last 6 months alone, there have been significant human trafficking rings busted in Nashville, L.A., and Houston? Did you also know there are ordinary people taking action to stop the trafficking?
According to The Global Slavery Index the estimated number of slaves in the United States is: 57,700 people.
The Exodus Road volunteers of the TraffickWatch program combat human trafficking taking place in U.S. cities. Vetted and trained individuals surveil target locations where trafficking is suspected. The men and women gather tips that can be used by local law enforcement to stop criminal activity.
Angie, a TraffickWatch operative in Colorado Springs explains the strategy. “After meeting with a team leader we divide into teams and review safety rules. In teams of 2-3 we are sent out to different locations in the community, including hotels, motels, public streets and parks. We check in with our team leader every 30 minutes and meet back at the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) after 2 hours. Once we debrief, we are sent to a new location. Tips are entered into a custom database and shared with the police.”
Justice Necessitates Patience
Many come into the program with expectations of action that are met with the reality of the importance of patience. KC, another volunteer with TraffickWatch in Colorado Springs said, “If [TraffickWatch] has taught me anything, it’s that justice is a long haul. It’s easy to romanticize the pursuit of justice, and to be honest, I imagined the TraffickWatch program to be this grand, exciting experience. But the nights I’ve gone out have been fairly quiet. Most nights you’re begging to see something—not because you want something bad to happen, but because you know it’s already happening and you want to witness it so the police can follow up on it. I went out one night with an army veteran who’d been on several stakeouts, and he shared how you’d watch one spot for hours upon hours, waiting for that one moment something happens—and when it does, suddenly those long hours of waiting are worth it. [TraffickWatch] requires a lot of patience, but its patience that this movement needs. It needs people who are willing to take a few hours out of their night to just sit, wait and watch. Because if several hours and nights lead to freedom for even just one girl or boy, it’s worth it.”
“It’s not just a matter of law enforcement; it’s a matter of moral obligation to end slavery of any kind on this planet, and we have to work at it.”
– Secretary of State John Kerry, TIP Report
“Modern slavery in the Americas affects men, women and children, and has manifested as forced labour, commercial sexual exploitation and, to a lesser degree, forced begging.”
“Today, we continue the long journey toward an America and a world where liberty and equality are not reserved for some, but extended to all. Across the globe, including right here at home, millions of men, women, and children are victims of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. We remain committed to abolishing slavery in all its forms and draw strength from the courage and resolve of generations past.”
– President Barack Obama, TIP Report
TraffickWatch is Making a Difference
With more than 70 volunteers in Colorado Springs, this program is making a difference. We spoke with Emily, one of the TraffickWatch volunteers, about her experience. She said, “Over the last year and a half volunteering, the long hours of sitting in a car waiting and watching, are worth it and rewarding when the tips we bring in result in victims freed from bondage.” Over 100 tips have been collected since the program launched nearly two years ago.
“Human trafficking is reportedly the fastest growing crime around the globe,” Angie adds, “According to UNICEF, human sex trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world. I’m thankful Colorado Springs has such an amazing program as Exodus Road and I’m grateful to work alongside many intelligent and selfless volunteers.” These individuals have embodied the truth that justice is in the hands of the ordinary. Together we can help bring an end to the trafficking of persons in the United States.
TraffickWatch is Coming to a City Near You
Currently the TraffickWatch program in Colorado Springs is taking a break for the summer. It will resume again shortly. In the meantime, The Exodus Road team is working on plans to expand to other major U.S. cities. Right now we are working on some exciting tech developments which will allow us to expand much more quickly to cities all across the U.S. Stand by and we’ll keep you posted as to how you can become a TraffickWatch volunteer right in your local community.