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Seminars Tour State To Teach Signs Of Human Trafficking

Flickr Creative Commons/Ruby T

A series of seminars have been organized around Wyoming to educate the public about how to spot human trafficking. According to a state-by-state report by the National Human Trafficking Hotline, as many as 110 cases of people sold for labor or sex have occurred in Wyoming since 2007.

Highway Patrol Trooper Randy Davis trains law enforcement about how to spot trafficking, and now he's taking that training to the public. This week, he spoke in Worland.

"We have what I like to call Spidey senses," he said. "We all get a feeling about something. And I tell people, trust your instincts, trust your gut feeling. If you think something's not right, there's nothing wrong with calling and reporting something."

He said truck drivers, motel workers, gas station attendants and people working at large events like Cheyenne Frontier Days or powwows are in a great position to report. He said it was the help of ordinary citizens trusting their instincts that led to the rescue of two teenage girls last summer.

"They thought these two girls weren't appropriately dressed, but they made a phone call. We actually ended up making a stop on that vehicle near Lander and pulling those two girls out of that car," Davis said.

In his seminars, he also teaches parents how to spot early signs.

"If they're child is trying to hide their social networks," he said, "if their child has lied about their age on their social network, if they're talking to somebody that's a stranger, especially a strange man and a lot of times it might be an older man."

Davis said the most vulnerable children are runaways or those kicked out of their homes.

Karen Fettig is with Beneath Our Wings, a church-affiliated group that's organizing the seminars. She said, parents should be sure to pay close attention to their children's online behavior.

"They're needy, they're lonesome, they're looking for affection, they don't like Mom and Dad, everything sucks at home, that kind of thing," said Fettig. "And they're posting this online. And so they become very vulnerable because perpetrators, they have a trained eye."

The next seminar is February 11 at 6 p.m. at Central Wyoming College in Riverton with more seminars and events planned around the state in coming months.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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