Everyone encouraged to know the signs of human trafficking and report it
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 22, 2019) – Attorney General Andy Beshear joined human trafficking prevention advocates, including law enforcement and survivors, on Monday at the Survivors’ Corner to urge the community to help stop trafficking at the 145th Kentucky Derby.
Beshear’s office published an online poster ahead of Derby to aid Kentuckians and visitors in identifying the signs of a human trafficking victim and how to report the crime.
Beshear said it is no fault of the Derby, but just a fact – human traffickers target many large-scale sporting events to prey on victims and profit from the crime.
“By raising awareness with partners, our community will be better prepared to stop traffickers this Derby,” said Beshear. “While there is no one single indicator of trafficking, there are several signs that are common in victims including traveling together, having identical tattoos, branding and not being able to identify where they are or where they are staying.”
Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell said, “The Kentucky Derby should be an opportunity to celebrate our great city of Louisville, not a time of increased business for the terrible crime that is human trafficking.”
Donna Pollard, founder of Survivors’ Corner, stressed the progress being made to stop the crime around Derby and throughout the year.
“This time of year should be filled with jubilation for everyone in our community, but unfortunately the crowds drawn for these celebratory events are used to enslave and exploit the vulnerable,” Pollard said. “Human trafficking has devastating long term impacts on victims and their families, but with the leadership and support of Attorney General Andy Beshear, our community has hope for healing and prevention.”
Jennifer Middleton, assistant professor at UofL’s Kent School of Social Work and director of the Human Trafficking Research Initiative shared details of the new Project Prevention and Intervention for Victims of Trafficking (PIVOT) that is helping improve victim responses. The project is funded through a grant from the Kentucky Children’s Justice Act Task Force and Beshear’s office participates on the advisory consortium.
The research team is reviewing the 95 substantiated cases of alleged child trafficking from 2013 to 2018. Preliminary results show that 87.4% of victims were females and the most commonly reported age was 15 years old. Of those children, 78.9% of victims were trafficked by a family member.
“The research being conducted by Project PIVOT regarding child trafficking victims in Kentucky further supports previous research that homelessness and experiencing adversity are some of the most significant factors that make children vulnerable to being trafficked,” said Middleton, the project’s principle investigator. “The statistics are alarming, particularly regarding the frequency of involvement of family members in trafficking our children.”
Amy Leenerts, founder and director of Free2Hope, spoke of her organization’s Derby outreach program, which is specifically aimed at helping child victims.
“This year Free2Hope is focusing its efforts on our Derby City Traffic Jam, which works to identify and assist runaway and missing kids who are vulnerable to traffickers at all times, but even more so with the increase in demand for commercial sex that large events like Derby inevitably bring," said Leenerts.
Since taking office, Beshear has forged partnerships with key anti-human trafficking organizations, many of them joined him to raise awareness around Derby. They include the Department for Community Based Services, Jefferson County Attorney’s Office, Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Louisville Metro Police Department, People Against Trafficking Humans, Kentucky State Police (KSP), Refuge for Women, Transit Authority of River City and Women of the Well.
Beshear has made seeking justice for victims and fighting human trafficking part of the core mission of the Office of the Attorney General.
Earlier this year, Beshear recognized the results of a Polaris Project partnership, which made sure national human trafficking hotline tips are routed through KSP headquarters. Prior to the change, there were more than two dozen different notification protocols across the state that Polaris followed.
Last year, Beshear’s office was involved in more than 30 arrests or citations involving the crime. To date, Beshear’s Office of Child Abuse and Human Trafficking Prevention and Prosecution has trained more than 5,000 Kentuckians on how to combat human trafficking.
Beshear said if an individual is being exploited for commercial sex or labor, he or she can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 (or text 233733) for immediate assistance. Interpreters are available for callers. To report suspected human trafficking of a child, call 877-KYSAFE1. Beshear said to dial 911 if you believe the individual is in immediate danger.