OUACHITA PARISH, LA (01/09/20)– January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Locals are encouraged to know the signs of trafficking and how it affects the state and Ouachita Parish.
“It’s something that is always in the back of my mind, especially as a female,” said Courtney Boothe, Resident.
Human trafficking happens everywhere, even in the city you call home.
“You think human trafficking is only in big cities like New Orleans, Dallas, Atlanta, those kinds of cities. Unfortunately, that happens here too,” said Michael Reichardt, Louisiana State Police Troop: F.
The Department of Children and Family Services says in 2018, over 700 people in Louisiana were reported to have become victims of sex trafficking, labor trafficking, or both. However, not all trafficking services in the state report their cases to the DCFS.
“A more startling statistic is that of those victims, 428 were juveniles. That was a 20 percent increase from the year before,” said Christy Tate, Department of Children and Family Services.
There’s an uptick in trafficking because criminals have learned that a victim can be sold over and over again, making it a cost-effective crime. The DCFS says in 2018 they had people trafficked from the age of 5 months to 65 years old.
“This is a problem that does not discriminate communities, does not discriminate on finical status, age, race. It is an overall problem,’ said Tate.
Louisiana State Police say these criminals use multiple tactics to lure unsuspecting victims. Anything from asking for help to outright kidnapping. Traffickers look for people who are alone or disconnected from their families. Trooper Reichardt says to use any means necessary to save your life.
“Scream, holler, kick, hit, bite, do whatever you have to do to get away,” said Reichardt.
“It can happen to anyone. I feel like it’s very important to be aware of your surroundings,” said Boothe.
Officials say being aware of trafficking information and signs could save your life. Louisiana State Police say if someone looks like they could be involved in human trafficking to ask if they are okay or if they need help.
In addition, all officials are asking that you share this information with family and friends.