Helping a young man or woman avoid becoming a victim of human trafficking can be as easy as checking in on them frequently to make sure they are alright.
What is more difficult is getting a young person out of the cycle of sex trafficking once they are entrenched in the lifestyle, Guardian Group CEO Jeff Tiegs told a group of Clark County law enforcement officers Thursday afternoon.
“It’s an American issue,” Tiegs said. “Eighty to 90 percent of the victims of sex trafficking victims (in America) are American girls. It’s not a foreign issue and it’s not just in the bigger cities. These predators groom girls from all over the U.S. and move them around and control them and keep them unstable so that they can exploit them. This permeates every corner of our communities. People need to know what this looks like and know how to respond to it.”
Guardian Group is a nonprofit organization comprised of former special operations military, law enforcement and intelligence professionals formed to help combat human trafficking.
Clark County has had a couple of cases of human trafficking, Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson said. The meeting was to make sure officers are up to date on the latest trends and to learn how traffickers operate.
Most traffickers do their work online, Tiegs said, and are targeting girls on social media and the internet. Traffickers groom their victims and then use the internet to sell sex, he said.
“What we looked at last year, there were over one million sex ads that we could see advertising girls for sale in Ohio,” Tiegs said. “And I look at it statewide because this crime is mobile and it moves. If there are buyers in Springfield they will come. They are looking for girls from Springfield that are impressionable and maybe naive to take to the bigger cities and exploit them there as well.”
The vast majority of trafficking victims are women, Tiegs said. A young woman with self-confidence is tougher to groom, Tiegs said, and therefore it is up to the community to support them.
“For parents, churches, schools, coaches we have to do a better job to build the confidence and self-esteem of our girls,” he said. “A trafficker or exploiter isn’t going to mess with a girl who is confident. It’s too difficult to try to control her. We have to do a better job of loving not just our own kids but at large. “