JPD Train to Combat Human Trafficking

JPD Train to Combat Human Trafficking

Every year thousands of men, women, and children become victims of human trafficking. It is a worldwide problem and police say it’s happening right here in Joplin. Today, they received training on how to combat it.

Experts say it’s the fastest growing and hardest crime to solve. Local law enforcement, court, and health officials train to work with victims of human trafficking.

“It will allow us to better identify the problem when we see it, it will allow us to address it, and hopefully long term we can work towards providing some safety, a safe house and things of that nature to the victims,” says Captain Larry Swinehart with the Joplin Police Department.

Opal Singleton with the Million Kids organization leads the discussion, hoping law enforcement will understand how real the problem is locally. She says she saw several internet ads selling women in Joplin.

“Because of my background I’m able to go through the internet and know how to find it but you have human trafficking right here and in fact your guys have gotten several cases,” says Singleton.

Joplin police say they come across 2 or 3 cases of human trafficking per year but that there’s definitely more going on. They say many times they don’t have the resources to properly address it.

“If we respond to a local motel in reference to a young lady that’s been assaulted we’ll go out and initially we’ll work that case as an assault when looking back on that case it was probably an incident of human trafficking where she was being assaulted by her handler,” says Swinehart.

And incorrectly identifying the problem is not uncommon, human trafficking is not a standalone crime.

“I wanted the officers to think about this, next time you arrest a 15 or 14 year old girl for shoplifting rerun that tape, look in the back, is there a guy back there who disappears when you arrest her, because they will do that, they’ll take these girls, when they’re not having sex they’re out there begging or they’re earning money by shoplifting,” says Singleton.

JPD say although they have failed to realize there was a bigger issue in past cases, they now have a better idea of how to handle the situation. And they, along with the Southwest Missouri Coalition fighting against human trafficking are looking to open a safe house here in Joplin so that victims have a secure place to go.