BOISE -- Northwest Nazarene University is trying to raise awareness of human trafficking, not just in Idaho, but across the region. Friday, experts from California and Washington were in the Treasure Valley to discuss how agencies can work together to battle this quickly growing problem.
NNU and World Relief welcomed in police, community groups, churches, and others to learn more about how human trafficking is growing quickly quietly.
Most of us who are walking around, wouldn't even know we were looking at it, said NNU professor Dr. Glena Andrews.
Human trafficking is when people are forced or coerced into prostitution or labor. But, how big is this problem in our area? The keynote speaker, Dr. Jamie Gates, Director of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation at Point Loma Nazarene U.San Diego, says no one knows yet.
Cities across the U.S. are just learning that it's far greater of an underground economy than what they knew, said Gates. So, I don't know the data here. I don't know what's happening here. But, I can bring the tools to search for what's happening here.
Gates says the research he's done on trafficking in San Diego can shed light on trafficking in Boise, partly because these trafficking rings have such a big reach.
In San Diego, they arrested 24 people who were operating in 44 cities around the country, interconnected, moving sex slaves, in this case, said Gates.
And this is why Gates says collaboration is key to fighting human trafficking. Also because victims do not and cannot come forward.
Police have to rely on community eyes and ears, said Gates. They want citizens involved. They want churches to start being their eyes and ears, and start being trained on what to look for. They want business folks to look at other businesses, where labor is being exploited.
That's what this event was all about, starting to get agencies, communities and states on the same page, sharing what information they have, and moving forward to try to stop a criminal industry that victimizes people everywhere in the United States.
It's so complex that no one agency can stop it, said Andrews.
The conference was also video-conferenced up at North Idaho College as well; another way people from all over are trying to come together to beat this.
For more information on how you can identify human trafficking in your community, you can attend an awareness training session at Saint Mary's Catholic Church next Thursday, May 7 at 6 p.m.