Police Impact Human Trafficking with Enforcement, Education & Partnerships
In honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, here is a review of Fort Collins Police Services’ efforts to reduce demand and protect vulnerable members of our community.
“There’s a common misconception that human trafficking looks like Hollywood’s depiction of women smuggled in shipping containers from other countries,” said Detective Laura Knudsen, who serves in the Crimes Against Persons Unit. “While that can happen in some places, our local reality typically involves at-risk individuals like runaways, domestic violence victims, and women operating in survival mode. Their abusers recognize this, provide for their most basic needs like housing and food, then exploit and control these people in crisis.”
Prostitution is often connected with human trafficking, illegal drug usage and sales, and violent crimes. Police hope to reduce these issues by making Fort Collins a difficult market for soliciting or selling sexual services.
- In a continuing effort to reduce demand for sexual services, investigators conducted multiple operations in 2019 targeting suspects who patronize prostitutes. A total of 21 men were charged with Soliciting a Prostitute/Attempt to Patronize a Prostitute. These operations also led to the arrest of Aron Ratcliff, who was convicted of Pimping in 2019.
- In 2019, three massage parlors were investigated for illegally selling sexual services and charges have been filed against business associates.
- FCPS partners with regional and federal law enforcement when conducting operations, as well as local organizations like Avery Research & Consulting, Free Our Girls, and UCount that research and connect prostituted women with resources to escape this traumatic lifestyle.
EDUCATION & PARTNERSHIPS
- FCPS periodically holds Innkeeper Training presentations to help local hospitality staff identify signs of various criminal behaviors, including prostitution and human trafficking. This is an ongoing collaborative effort between police and our business community. FCPS also plans to expand this education to those who serve our homeless/transient population as this community is often vulnerable to sexual assault and exploitation.
- As part of an ongoing demand-reduction strategy, FCPS works with a local therapist to host of the First Offender Restoration Initiative, also known as a “John School." This program is designed to educate men charged with soliciting sexual services. During the 8-hour course, presenters challenge the myth that prostitution is a “victimless crime” by sharing data about the realities of prostitution and sex trafficking in Northern Colorado. National research* shows that the majority of prostituted women were victims of childhood sexual abuse. Many were runaway youth and were first forced to sell sex before the age of 16. The women in this industry often remain with abusers because they have no other means of survival.
- In September 2019, FCPS organized and hosted a training conference called “Sex Trafficking and Your Mid-Sized City.” Over 30 law enforcement attendees from Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah attended to learn about identifying and reducing demand for sexual services.
- FCPS will also participate in the upcoming Northern Colorado Human Trafficking Symposium held on February 6, 2020. This annual conference is designed to engage and educate on the issue of sex trafficking through research, training, and collaboration. This event is open to the public. For more information or to register, visit https://nocohumantraffickingsymposium.org/.
For more information about anti-trafficking partnerships and efforts in Larimer County, visit http://larimerantitrafficking.com/.
*Source: Prostitution: An Extreme Form of Girls’ Sexualization, Melissa Farley (2013, Oxford University Press)