It’s a crime which often stays out of sight..
Baltimore, Md (KM) Human trafficking is a crime which tries to stay under the radar, but that doesn’t deter police and prosecutors from trying to shut it down.
US Attorney for Maryland, Robert Hur, says this enterprise involves the use of force, fraud and coercion to obtain labor or get someone to perform sex acts. He says the victims are often vulnerable and easier to exploit.
He says Maryland is not immune to this crime. “Maryland has the central location on the eastern seaboard. You’ve got major cities, Baltimore and Washington DC. But you can also think of Maryland as a way point in the cruel and despicable human trafficking trade between New York and Philadelphia up to the north, and other cities in the southeast to our south,” he says.
But Hur says human trafficking can happen in smaller cities such as Frederick and Hagerstown. “There have been reports, and there have been prosecutions of human traffickers in Frederick County,” he says.
The US Department of State says human trafficking it the second highest grossing criminal enterprise, earning more than $150.2-million each year from forced labor.
The US Attorney’s Office says most of its victims are vulnerable individuals, who feel disenfranchised, socially excluded, and economically vulnerable,. It could include victims of domestic violence and substance abuse, and people who reside in unstable living conditions, youths in foster care or in the juvenile justice system. Some are immigrants and even children.
Hur says a lot of victims are part of the sex trade. “It’s particularly despicable in which people are exploited. Their drug addictions are being used against them. And being manipulated oftentimes just through physical force to be coerced into prostitution,” he says.
But it’s also forced labor in both legitimate and illegitimate businesses, such as domestic service, massage parlors, agriculture, restaurants, hotels and manufacturing sweatshops. “There are people who fall to bait and switch to say here’s a great employment opportunity. Perhaps you’re someone from foreign country and you want to be in position to send money home to be earned here in the United States. But they’re lured into and suckered into situations in which they’re being abused, taken advantage of. and oftentimes their wages are being withheld, unfairly,” says Hur.
Even though this criminal enterprise tries to stay invisible, Hur says there are some signs that an individual is a victim of human trafficking. “Folks that appeared to be disconnected from social groups; if you noticed bruises in various stages of hearing. If you have an interaction with someone who is very apprehensive and it looks pretty obvious that they’ve been coached what to say in response to specific questions, those are often ‘tells’ that someone is being human trafficked and in need of help,” he says.
If you come across someone like that, Hur says call your local police, or the National Human Trafficking Hot Line at 1-888-373-7888.
Hur says prosecutors and police try to bring a victim-centered approach to fighting human trafficking. But he says these cases keep his office very busy. “These cases are difficult to prosecute. They take a long time to build. And a lot of that comes down to the fragility of the victims. These are vulnerable people who have abused and manipulated, and often have a lot of fear about coming forth and cooperating with law enforcement,” he says.
By Kevin McManus