Homeland Security working alongside local law enforcement to stop rampant human trafficking
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) continues to crack down on human trafficking in King County, particularly in high-profile spots like Aurora Ave., as the organization has made 70 trafficking arrests this year in the Pacific Northwest.
“We continue to see sex trafficking continuing in all the different cities across the Pacific Northwest in general,” HSI Seattle Lead Agent Robert Hammer said on the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “And then we also have labor trafficking going on in various areas, primarily in southern Oregon and Eastern Washington.”
Hammer said these trafficking victims find themselves in these situations due to a myriad of reasons, including substance abuse issues, trouble at home, or being a runaway juvenile.
“Fraud, force, or coercion are the three main factors that we really focus on when looking at our investigations to see if somebody’s being swindled, tricked, or manipulated,” Hammer said. “Are you being taken against your will and you can’t get out of that situation? Anything like that? Those are some of the big things that we see here in this region.”
On average, 300 people buy sex along Aurora Avenue in King County every day, according to HSI Special Agent Jayme McFarland. McFarland and her team give out bags full of essentials to women who may be victims of trafficking, including resources and contact information.
HSI is working with federal law enforcement agencies of various sizes to mitigate and stop human trafficking, including the King County Sherriff’s Office and the FBI.
“We’re really working together as law enforcement to get out there and understand what’s going on in the streets and to understand who the traffickers are,” Hammer said. “And then, we also have an opportunity. And I think this is where we need to rely heavier with our local law enforcement partners to go after the demand side, because when you have a large contingent of our local community that is out there on the streets, actively seeking to have sex with minors, in exchange for money, we need to go after those individuals, because those are predators.”
It is estimated that 500 to 700 children are forced into sex work every single year in King County, according to Port of Seattle data.
“Going after these traffickers requires specialized units. I mean, it’s hard for your uniformed officers to be there,” Hammer said. “We need these undercover operations. We need plainclothes detectives out there. And that’s why we’re trying to partner and augment some of this by being in there, but it is finite supply.”
For any information and resources, visit Seattle Police Department’s page on human trafficking.
Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.