Local Coalition tells how to spot possible human trafficking cases
As a member of the 14th Judicial District Human Trafficking Coalition, Lt. J.R. Talamantez of the Panama City Beach Police Department works to educate parents on the issue of child trafficking and asks the community to report things that don't seem right. A special event is set for this weekend for those wanting more information on this subject.
Project: Intercept is a human trafficking awareness event scheduled for March 8-9 at St. Andrews Assembly of God, 2400 15th St. Those under 18 must attend with a parent or guardian or have a signed permission slip and waiver with a valid ID to attend. The event includes the showing of the movie Priceless, based on true accounts of a human trafficking case, business awareness canvassing and a Q&A with a survivor. Register at www.thetrindiinitiative.com. The event is free.
“It is an issue everywhere,” said Talamantez. “It is a world problem. The sale of humans is more profitable than drugs because that same person can be sold over and over again.”
Even locally, Talamantez said there have been arrests for human trafficking. That case involved a man posing as a professional photographer and recruiting minors as aspiring models. The young girls were then manipulated into prostitution under the guise of an escort service.“A few years ago, we were able to rescue a minor. It’s always important to get the public involved. Remember if you see something, say something.”
Talamantez advises people to trust their gut instincts when they see something that doesn’t seem right. A male bringing a child to a doctor’s office, maybe holding her by the arm in a forceful manner and a look of uncertainty or discomfort in the child’s eyes could be a sign. Also a young girl dressed too provocatively with an older male might be a sign of trafficking.
“It could be perfectly fine but report it to police so we can verify that the child is safe. Predators tend to isolate their victims, threaten and control them,” he said. “Runaway minors looking for acceptance are more susceptible.”
The Coalition provides a safe environment for victims and has developed a curriculum to help train communities on what to look for in the human trafficking world. Most human trafficking victims fall into the sex or labor trades. Call (850) 859-2235 to get someone from the Coalition to speak to your group.
Public Information Officer Debbie Ward can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 233-5100, Ext. 2261.