Federal authorities are issuing a warning to the public on human trafficking indicators ahead of the North American International Auto Show at Detroit's Cobo Center.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations says human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes, and is akin to modern-day slavery.
"Victims pay to be illegally transported into the United States, only to find themselves in the thrall of traffickers," HSI said. "They are forced into prostitution, involuntary labor and other forms of servitude to repay debts - often entry into the United States."
In certain cases, human trafficking victims are children, surrounded by an unfamiliar culture and language without identification documents.
"Human trafficking cases are notoriously difficult to pursue," said Steve Francis, HSI special agent in charge. "Victims and their families are often intimated into compliance with the threat of violence and other forms of abusive coercion."
"We urge members of the public to educate themselves on these heinous crimes so they recognize the indicators. An educated public can help law enforcement rescue individuals in these situations and ensure those committing these acts are punished.”
HSI says recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save a life. Not all indicators listed below are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking.
- 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?
- Does the person appear to have all their belongings in a plastic bag, easy to grab if forced to quickly move locations?
- Is the juvenile using a false ID or lying about his or her age?
- Does the person appear to not be familiar with his or her surroundings, e.g., not know their location?
HSI urges the public to not attempted to confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert a victim to any suspicions.
If you notice suspicious activity, please contact HSI through its tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.