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Sean D. Reyes
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Get Involved for Human Trafficking Prevention Month

January 11, 2020

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and today, January 11, is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. As of this moment, there are dozens of people in Utah and thousands across the nation who are suffering the physical and mental anguish of being imprisoned in plain sight.

The human trafficking industry generates approximately $150 billion each year and has an estimated 40.3 million victims world-wide, even in the State of Utah.

Human trafficking is a pervasive and horrific violation of human rights that strips victims of innocence, hope, and dignity. Men, women, and children of any sexual orientation, race, gender, nationality, and from all backgrounds and communities – urban or rural – are trafficked each year.

Traffickers use a number of ways to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sex, including force, fraud, or coercion. They may use violence, manipulation, or false promises of a romantic relationship or a well-paying job. Traffickers use “invisible ropes” that involve complex manipulative tactics to control their victims, despite the popular portrayal in books and movies that traffickers use handcuffs, chains, cages, and locked rooms. A victim’s trauma may be so great that they may not identify as a victim and will not ask for help. Language barriers, fear of traffickers, and fear of law enforcement may prevent a victim from speaking out.

Human trafficking is a fast-growing, transnational epidemic. The Utah Attorney General’s Office through its Utah Trafficking in Persons (UTIP) Task Force and SECURE Strike Force, along with many partner agencies, aggressively fight against trafficking in all its forms. In 2018, the Utah Attorney General’s Office conducted 49 human trafficking investigations, prosecuted 8 cases, and served 44 victims. Utah has made great strides to combat trafficking and was recently ranked among the top in the nation for its dedication to the fight against minor sex trafficking. Despite this, there is still much work to be done.

The AG’s Office invites Utahns this January to get involved. Learn the signs of human trafficking and how to report it here. Register for the free Annual UTIP Human Trafficking Symposium by the AG’s Office at the University of Utah on January 24, to learn about human trafficking from the perspective of attorneys, case managers, law enforcement, and medical providers. Utahns can also report tips regarding human trafficking to the Utah Attorney General’s Office:

  • Utah Human Trafficking Tipline: 801-200-3443
  • Internet Crimes Against Children Tipline: 801-281-1211

The AG’s Office would like to thank our partners in the fight against human trafficking:

  • Adult Probation and Parole/Department of Corrections
  • Backyard Broadcast
  • Bountiful Police Department
  • Children’s Justice Center
  • Davis County Sheriff’s Office
  • Division of Child and Family Services
  • The Department of Justice
  • Department of Public Safety/Utah Statewide Information and Analysis Center
  • doTerra
  • Federal Bureau of Investigations-Salt Lake City
  • Fight the New Drug
  • Homeland Security Investigations- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Juvenile Justice Services
  • Malouf Foundation
  • Ogden Police Department
  • Operation Underground Railroad
  • Orem Police Department
  • Park City Police Department
  • Refugee & Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah
  • Restoring Ancestral Winds
  • Safe Harbor
  • Salt Lake City Police Department
  • SHEROES United
  • South Valley Services
  • The Road Home
  • Unified Police Department
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office
  • U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service
  • Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault
  • Utah Crime Victims Legal Clinic
  • Utah Domestic Violence Coalition
  • Utah Legal Services
  • Utah Office for Victims of Crime
  • Various professionals from the medical community
  • West Jordan Police Department
  • West Valley Police Department
  • West Wendover Police Department
  • YCC Family Crisis Center
  • 3 Strands Global Foundation
  • 4th Street Clinic

January 11th: Human Trafficking Awareness Day

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and January 11th is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. The Utah Attorney General’s Office, in partnership with the Trafficking in Persons Program, Refugee & Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah, and the Utah Trafficking in Persons (UTIP) Task Force, will present a series of commentaries to educate and engage the public on the realities and complex dynamics of human trafficking.

Recognizing and Reporting

Human trafficking, by its criminal nature, is secretive. Traffickers use “invisible ropes” involving complex manipulative tactics to control their victims. If human trafficking in Utah doesn’t typically involve the use of handcuffs, chains, cages, locked rooms, or shipping containers that books and movies might use to portray the subject, how can we recognize it?

 First, before addressing the red flags which may indicate human trafficking and what someone observing red flags can do, remember Rule #1: Keep yourself safe. Do not place yourself in danger. Never confront a suspected trafficker.

If you can safely observe a suspicious situation, recognize the red flags, and report them to the proper authorities, you can make a difference. Most of the successful human trafficking cases prosecuted through the Attorney General’s office have started with a tip from a concerned citizen.

There are a number of red flags that, in and of themselves, may not be too sinister. But as the red flags pile up, they may begin to indicate a trafficking situation. Pay particular attention to any situation where:

  • A person is recruited for work with grand and unlikely promises;
  • A person works excessive hours for little or no pay;
  • A person exhibits signs of untreated illness or injuries;
  • A person is not in control of his or her identification, immigration, or travel documents;
  • A person exchanges sex to meet basic needs, e.g., food, clothing, or shelter;
  • A person’s behavior appears to be controlled or fearful;
  • A younger person travels with an older boyfriend or companion who seems particularly watchful or controlling;
  • A person suddenly acquires expensive and/or revealing clothing, jewelry, or electronics, without explanation for how they obtained the products;
  • A person’s communication is restricted and she or he is unable to speak separately or alone;
  • A person owes money to her or his employer;
  • A person says they “can’t quit” their job because of fear of some great harm, such as deportation;
  • A person demonstrates sudden changes in behavior.

These red flags are not uncommon. Any given day we could encounter someone we suspect might be a victim of human trafficking—either for labor or sexual exploitation—while we are at a park, at the mall, on a bus or train, or even at school. If it can be done safely, consider asking some questions that will elicit helpful information without appearing to be inquiring about human trafficking. Ask about where they are from, where they live now, or with whom they live. If they are traveling with a suspicious companion, ask how they met. If they have tattoos—which can be used to brand or identify a trafficker’s victims—ask about them, what do they mean, when did they get them, what’s the story behind them.

If the conversation proceeds to uncover additional red flags, and circumstances permit—remember not to place yourself in danger or ask too specific of questions while a suspected trafficker is within hearing range—move to deeper, more targeted questions.  Ask if they have ever been forced to do work that they did not want to do, or if they have ever worked in a place where the work was different from what they were promised it would be. Ask if anyone takes all or part of the money they earn. Has anyone threatened them or their family? Are they in possession of their identification and travel documents, or does someone else have control over those documents? Has anyone ever taken photos of them and put them on the internet?  Have they ever exchanged sex for food, shelter, drugs, or money? Ask if they feel trapped in their situation. 

Traffickers rely on the general public not asking questions, not recognizing the red flags, and simply looking the other way. Simple conversation with someone we might suspect is a victim of human trafficking can provide valuable insights into the situation. Details and red flags identified from a conversation can then be passed on to law enforcement officers who can further investigate and determine whether human trafficking is taking place. 


On January 22nd we’ll host a lunchtime panel discussion – Brown Bag: Human Trafficking 101. Please join us as we cover more information on the topic of recognizing and reporting human trafficking. Watch our Facebook page for details.


To report tips regarding human trafficking, please contact the Utah Attorney General’s Office:

  • Utah Human Trafficking Tipline: 801-200-3443
  • Internet Crimes Against Children Tipline: 801-281-1211
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