There’s a common misconception that human trafficking looks like Hollywood’s depiction of women smuggled in shipping containers from other countries. 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.
- Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
- Has a child stopped attending school?
- Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
- Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
- Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
- Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
- Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
- Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
- Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
- Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
- Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
- Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
- Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
While it's impossible to know the person's intentions, traffickers typically do not accost random people in stores. They seek out and target vulnerable people, such as runaways, people dealing with emotional trauma or financial difficulty, or individuals with substance use addictions. They may form a relationship to earn trust, provide shelter, or supply the victim with drugs. They then often use threats, violence, substances, or other means to control the victim.
If you're approached by a person who makes you feel uncomfortable, always listen to your instincts. While they may not be trying to traffic you, they may still be a threat to your safety. Always trust your gut and report suspicious situations to law enforcement.
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, FCPS conducts multiple operations each year targeting suspects who patronize prostitutes. These operations have resulted in arrests for pimping, drug distribution, and other serious criminal activity.
- In 2019, three massage parlors were investigated for illegally selling sexual services and charges were filed against business associates.
- FCPS partners with regional and federal law enforcement when conducting operations, as well as local organizations like The Avery Center 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 has participated in the Northern Colorado Human Trafficking Symposium. This annual conference is designed to engage and educate on the issue of sex trafficking through research, training, and collaboration.