Human trafficking and modern day slavery happens in America today. According to the annual U.S. Trafficking in Persons report, the United States is a “source, transit and destination country for men, women and children … subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.”
And while we work to help find and free slaves overseas, we want to do the same right at home — in the country where we as an organization were founded.
We believe in equipping civil society to actively “do something” about slavery in their own communities. TraffickWatch was our solution to this vision taking shape on American soil.
Formerly, TraffickWatch was a program utilizing trained volunteers to gather, analyze, and deliver tips of potential trafficking or exploitation to local police, beginning in the United States. The TraffickWatch Program was in it’s pilot stage from March 2015 through June 2016 in Colorado Springs, upon which we evaluated the effectiveness of the program – both from the volunteer and police perspectives. After evaluating the program, we have decided to make several changes (see details below).
We were all intended to participate in the freedom of other human beings. There is something about the very fabric of our soul that longs to be involved. I know you can feel it.David, Advocate and Operative
Program Update: A Shift in Our Strategy
After getting feedback from local police and staff, and after much evaluation of the pilot program, we’ve decided to shift our strategy to fight trafficking here at home. Here’s where we’re headed:
We are no longer going to utilize volunteers to gather data in Colorado Springs. As we planned to scale this model, we realized that we simply don’t have the manpower or safety controls we would need to roll out Traffickwatch in communities around the country, as originally intended. Law enforcement is already overwhelmed, and we learned that it was difficult to collect the depth of information we needed to prove a valuable support to police work against slavery. As an organization we want to value the efficient use of time — both our staff and our volunteers — and through this pilot program realized we could honor both in more strategic ways.
TraffickWatch will become an online training platform, launched in the Americas first. While we will no longer run a consistent boots-on-the-ground program, we will be developing a highly interactive online training platform, which will still be called TraffickWatch. This interactive and educational mini-course will be available to anyone who has a computer. It will include data about both global and local trafficking, signs to be aware of, and action steps for anyone to take to get involved. It will be an effective training tool to educate a large volume of people on what trafficking actually looks like right in their own backyards. We feel that this tool will be a critical step in moving people — in any city! — from awareness to action. Our plan is to begin building the platform in late Spring, with a target completion of Fall 2017. We’ll let you know when it is up and running!
CHARLIE Team will work active investigations in the Americas. Because we have found that law enforcement partners need a greater depth of information on cases than our volunteer team was able to safely provide, we will be instead utilizing several CHARLIE Team investigators. These trained men and women will work to conduct similar investigations as our teams overseas and will operate in the U.S. and Latin America initially, with plans to expand throughout the Americas, as necessary. This team will also utilize critical cyber forensics, intelligence and analysis.
The Future of TraffickWatch and How You Can Help
Though our TraffickWatch program is shifting, we still need you. Trafficking does happen right in our own backyards, and you do have a role to play in fighting it. Here are a few ways you can still help:
1. Watch for the online TraffickWatch training program. When it releases, take the free course online and encourage your friends to do the same. Spread the word on it, after you try it yourself.
2. Invest in CHARLIE TEAM. Though we have a select team of highly trained operatives, we do need financial support to empower their work. Consider a $35 (or more!) monthly donation to this team. $35 funds one night of investigations. You’ll still be impacting trafficking in the Americas in significant ways, and we’ll keep you updated on progress, too. You can do that HERE. Select your monthly gift and be sure to select CHARLIE TEAM on the drop down menu.
3. Volunteer locally with The Exodus Road. We are in the midst of reorganizing our Volunteer Program here in our hometown of Colorado Springs, and we’d love for you to still work with us. There are a million creative ways to help in the fight for freedom; fill out a volunteer form here.
The vision of TraffickWatch still remains to:
- train average citizens to actively look for and recognize instances of trafficking in their communities,
- provide the resource of more “eyes on the ground” for local law enforcement, which is typically understaffed and underfunded, and
- make trafficking more “dangerous” for criminals, make freedom more possible for victims.