Operation Autumn Hope reminds us why we need to be vigilant during the holidays. This time of year is normally filled with cheer, and it’s when kids and teens enjoy spending time outside. The weather is cooling off, Halloween brings treats, and so, school holidays are right around the corner. However, it’s also a time when predators make their move.
It was this time last year, almost exactly, then U.S. Marshalls in Ohio rescued 45 missing children and 109 human trafficking survivors.
Ohio Attorney General, David Yost, wrote on Twitter about the successful operation.
“Our Human Trafficking task forces – local law enforcement teaming up with the state – conducted a massive statewide sting last week. Operation Autumn Hope is the largest single HT operation in state history. Our goal: an Ohio where no human is bought or sold.”Twitter
According to Yost, 76 missing and exploited children cases were cleared, including 45 “by physical recovery by the U.S. Marshals Service.”
Operation Autumn Hope Sheds Light on a Horrific Truth
Accordingly, and quite sadly, this is just one city, in one state, in a very large country. Seeing these numbers can send a chill down your spine when you think of those poor kids. Above all, what they have been through is unimaginable. And they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Basically, according to the U.S. State Department, they estimate there are 24.9 million human trafficking victims worldwide.
“Each year, an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States. The number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country each year is even higher, with an estimated 200,000 American children at risk for trafficking into the sex industry.“NCJRS.gov
“They are hidden from view. You don’t recognize them in the back kitchens, shops, gas stations and in hospitality. They are also tucked away in fields. They don’t come out and ask for help. It’s a different kind of slavery than long ago,” says Dr. Lucy Steinitz, Catholic Relief Services senior technical advisor for protection. “They are not in shackles or on farms. People are coerced into harsh employment under horrible conditions, and then have no freedom to leave. They are beaten, violated and told they are worthless—that no one else wants them anymore.”CRS.org
Getting the attention it needs
Operation Autumn Hope used the State’s available resources, and legislation, to enact an anti-trafficking and rescue mission. Afterwards, they took a subject no one wants to talk about, and they gave it the attention it deserved. Therefore, if other states, namely Texas, Florida, and California did the same thing, human trafficking numbers might start to drop.
“The number of convictions for human trafficking is increasing, but unfortunately not proportionately to the growing awareness and extent of the problem. There are several reasons for that. There is an absence of anti-trafficking legislation in some countries. Sometimes the legislation exists, but law enforcement officials and prosecutors may not know how to use it.”CRS.org
How you Can Help
There are a few ways you can help end human trafficking.
1. Be alert. Know the signs.
Do they have poor hygiene? Are they unable to speak for themselves? Do they seem to use a scripted response when y you ask them questions? If a child or young adult is showing these signs, you may need to inform someone about what is going on. Operation Autumn Hope was successful due to people who spotted unusual things and shared that information with authorities. Additionally, often victims are unable to reach out, they are being watched, they can’t speak up about the abuse. Therefore, It’s up to those on the outside to recognize what is really going on and get help.
Another key point from State.gov, who shared information on how to report suspicious activity: “If you are in the United States and believe someone may be a victim of human trafficking, call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or report an emergency to law enforcement by calling 911. Above all, trafficking victims, whether or not U.S. citizens, are eligible for services and immigration assistance.“
3. Reach out.
Reach out to local schools and ask them to include “human trafficking in their curricula and to develop protocols for identifying and reporting a suspected case of human trafficking or responding to a potential victim.”
Accordingly and most importantly, be an ally, Inform your friends and loved ones that this is really happening. It’s not the plot of a movie, these kids are really being stolen and subjected to slavery. This is happening in your own backyard. It’s time to make sure it stops.
Keep Reading: Police save eight people – including 2-year-old child and infant – in human trafficking bust
- “US marshals rescue 45 missing children as part of ‘Operation Autumn Hope’” Fox. Peter Aitken October 26, 2020.
- “Press release, U.S. Marshals Recover 45 Missing Children.” US Marshall Service. October 26, 2020
- “7 THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT HUMAN TRAFFICKING, AND 3 WAYS TO HELP.” CRS
- “Human Trafficking.” NCJRS
- “20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking.” U.S. Department of State.