The percentages of human trafficking increase every year. Just in the United States alone, 40,000 plus cases have been reported. These cases are only based on unique survivors or those who have reported it to the national human trafficking hotline. In most cases, experts believe this is severely under-reported because so many people are unaware that it could be happening in their own neighborhoods.
Most of us have seen the movie Taken starring Liam Neeson. There was an instant following over the action-packed film but did we ever think it was that much of a reality? Personally, I never thought human trafficking was something to worry about. I knew that it has happened before and there were some cases of it but I never thought it was something I would become worried about.
A couple days ago, it was reported that a woman name Shayla had a strange encounter outside of a Planet Fitness in Omaha, Nebraska. She was approached by a woman who tried confronting her but Shayla ran to her car and locked the doors. The woman still approached the car and knocked on her window until Shayla drove off and reported the incident. Shayla also realized that the same woman approached her earlier that week while she was out with her boyfriend. Shayla wasn’t the only reported case around that area. Two other incidents involved women who were walking alone in parking lots being approached by another woman. One happened in a Walmart parking lot and the second occurred in a YMCA parking lot. All three incidents within the same region of each other.
The scariest part about this becoming a bigger issue in the United States is that it might not always seem like a dangerous situation. In most cases, women approach other women acting friendly and using charm to lure them into the situation. Other incidents involve fake job postings and other forms of fraud.
Basically, the time has come that you truly can’t trust any stranger anymore. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be friendly towards other people or that you can never go anywhere alone again. You just need to be aware of your surroundings at all times. That means you can’t (shouldn’t) be looking at your phone while walking back to your car even if it’s in the middle of the day in a crowded parking lot.
In most cases, the people who are targeted for human trafficking are being watched for several days before being approached.
If you’re always aware of your surroundings you will be more likely to identify someone who has been around you several times before speaking with you. Experts say that we often believe a big white van is going to come up and kidnap someone if they’re targeted for human trafficking. However, in almost every incident they base their targets on vulnerability. This is why everyone needs to stay off their phone when they’re out shopping alone or walking back to their cars. The more alert and aware you are of your surroundings, the less likely you will be targeted for these incidents.
The Internet is making human trafficking easier because they use an online marketplace to move around victims. The FBI considers human trafficking to be the third-largest criminal activity in the world. It’s becoming more concerning because we are finally paying attention to it more. This is something that is a lot bigger than we think it is and it’s happening in places close to home. Hopefully, if more people become aware of the situation, we can start finding solutions to stop human trafficking altogether.
We live in a time that the only way to outsmart a criminal is to always be aware of what is going on around you at all times. Try walking through a store and only pay attention to the things around you. See if you start to notice faces, who’s walking behind you, if the same person happened to show up next to you in different locations of the store, and see if you can remember who walked in the store when you did.
It’s a fun experiment to try and it really shows you a different perspective on things. You start to realize how easily you miss the things around you from not paying attention.
Now is the time to start paying attention and start coming up with solutions to stop human trafficking.
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking or to report a tip please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 or text “BeFree” to 233733. For more information and statistics on human trafficking in the United States please visit Polaris Project!
Featured image via Unsplash