PHOENIX, Ariz. - One of the best known people in Arizona is dedicated to the fight against human trafficking.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month ---and Cindy McCain---wife of the late Senator John McCain---has been active for many years working against human trafficking.
She spoke exclusively with KGUN9 On Your Side Reporter Craig Smith.
Cindy McCain says she often saw little boys and girls as she traveled the world but it took awhile to realize many of them were being exploited by human traffickers.
“And when I realized what it was it was something that not only astounded me but it astounds me on how prolific it is right here in our United States. It's something that all of us can see everyday, on the streets, in the malls, in the schools and not recognize."
Now Cindy McCain co-chairs the Arizona Governor's Council on Human Trafficking and chairs the Human Trafficking Advisory Council of the McCain Institute.
“We educate educators, people, neighborhoods, communities, clergy, whoever wants to hear us about what it is, and what to look for and what to recognize when you see it and what to do when you see it."
Recognizing certain behaviors can help recognize---and rescue---a victim of human trafficking. The victim may seem fearful and overly dependent on someone else. You can find more detailed information at this link to an information sheet from the Department of Homeland Security.
Cindy McCain urges parents to be alert with their own children,” … and with their use of the internet. I tell parents I know a lot of times it's easy to say, ‘We’ll drop my daughter and her little girlfriends off at the mall for an hour. It'll be OK.’ It won't be OK. The predators hang out in places like that.”
McCain says the human trafficking includes sex trafficking, trafficking for forced labor and even trafficking to harvest human organs.
The sick system brings in big money but tracking the money is one way to bring it down.
“For instance there are websites that deal in sex trafficking, specifically where cards like American Express and MasterCard and Visa said, ‘No you can't use our cards on these things.’ So if we began with the credit system because that's the largest network in all of this and now we're working with the World Bank, we're working with various banking systems, finance systems around the world to help track the money.”
Cindy McCain says Arizona's become a leader in the fight against human trafficking through strong coordination among law enforcement, healthcare and education and through programs that view people trapped into sex trafficking not as prostitutes to be punished but as victims who need help to escape a shadowy world that may be in plain sight if we know what to watch for.