ST. GEORGE — The recent arrest of a former St. George Police vice squad supervisor in a human trafficking sting operation led police to another arrest of a Riverton man also allegedly connected to the trafficking ring. In both arrests, the victims were allegedly lured through texting and social media.
The danger of being trafficked is “growing like wildfire in the United States,” Cammy Bowker, CEO of the Southern Utah-based anti-trafficking nonprofit Global Education Philanthropists, said in a press release. “Kids and families from any neighborhood in the nation are at risk.”
This trend keeps up with the rest of the globe, as trafficking is the world’s fastest-growing crime and Americans are responsible for buying the majority of sex slaves. Potential traps can hide in plain sight on social media outlets and children’s games, such as Fornite, Instagram and Snapchat.
“Any app with a chatting function puts children at risk,” Bowker said. “Parents think ‘we are fine’ but we are not. Kids do not always tell their parents what is happening on their devices because they feel ashamed, confused, or are worried about the privilege of using the device being revoked.”
Once a person — usually a woman or child — is trafficked, it becomes difficult to find them. Victims get isolated and abused. Ringleaders have been known to brand victims with tattoos and change the victim’s hair, sometimes leaving them nearly unrecognizable to those they knew before being trafficked.
Locating a victim is only a small part of the battle. Once extracted, victims often return to trafficking. This is compounded by a lack of aftercare resources, including shelter, basic necessities and mental health care.
Global EP is working to put an end to the vicious cycle of trafficking by rescuing victims and taking them to an aftercare house. The organization has partnered with a woman who was rescued from a trafficking ring and is helping other victims find a permanent way out of trafficking situations.
“It is so important to have a Survivor Expert as part of the extraction operations and aftercare, whenever possible” Bowker said.
In addition to food, gas and lodging needed for operations, Global EP provides rescue packs that include basic necessities for victims. Packs are then given to the FBI and other agencies to be given directly to survivors. Also included in the packs are pajamas, a small treat and a note of encouragement.
Global EP volunteerism
Volunteers are at the heart of Global EP’s success. The charity has opportunities to serve domestically and internationally. Domestically, volunteers can collect items for rescue packs or make a $50 donation to buy one.
The nonprofit also hosts international trips to destinations like Haiti and the Dominican Republic to assist in the prevention of human trafficking through education. Volunteers include doctors, dentists, teachers, electricians and others who help teach villagers employable skills while working on projects at schools and orphanages.
Anyone can help Global EP by contributing items for rescue packs. Needed supplies include backpacks, mini toiletries, pajamas, flip-flops, journals, pens, lip balm, water bottles and notes of encouragement. As a 501(c)3 charity, all donations are tax deductible.