TUCSON, Ariz. — The fight against human trafficking starts with knowing what to look out for. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and a workshop was held at Tucson's Westside Police Service Center today for teens and their parents.
SAATURN is the Southern Arizona Anti-Trafficking Unified Response Network, and the organization works to educate teens and parents on ways to identify and understand signs of human trafficking. Here are a few behaviors that can help recognize and rescue a victim.
One: if the person seems to not be familiar with their surroundings.
"Just because sometimes pimps take their girls on tours. It could also be a situation where it's a young girl being brought from another country and so she's not familiar with her surroundings," said today's guest speaker, Meiko Taylor, who is Selah Freedom's national director of prevention.
Two: tattoos and branding. Markings are not as visible as they used to be, but Taylor says, if you have suspicions and see a tattoo or brand, ask the person about what it means.
"People that I know that have tattoos, they know of the story behind it. They can tell you why they got it. And so if you're asking, 'Hey, what's the story behind that tattoo?' and they can't really give you an explanation, that can be a red flag for someone that did brand them and it could be a red flag for trafficking," said Taylor.
Three: contact on social media. If you're a parent, sometimes your child's messages on social media sites can alert you to what is going on.
"Just making sure that they're not posting a lot of personal information, that they're not geo-tagging or tagging where they are. And then also blocking people that are messaging them that are inappropriate and not accepting friend requests from people that they don't know," said Taylor.
If you are a parent and think your child is a victim call 911. But if you are in public and come across a situation that doesn't seem right, ask around to confirm suspicions, but police say, do not physically interfere.
"It comes back to the 'see something, say something' aspect. Get a hold of authorities, let them know what's going on. And if you can't get a hold of police because maybe you're on an airplane or a train, get a hold of somebody who's in charge and then they can notify the authorities," said Lt. Frank Hand with Tucson Police.