Letters to the Editor

Letter: How Missouri’s General Assembly can fight human trafficking

Warning signs

The Missouri legislature is considering House Bill 397, which would protect human trafficking victims from prosecution of crimes they were coerced into and expunge their records. Human trafficking is the fastest growing and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world. The average age of first-time victims is 11-14. They can be girls, boys and transgender youth of every social, ethnic and racial group. Worldwide, 300,000 children are taken annually. Of the 17,000 from the U.S., 1,650 are from Kansas City, making this Missouri bill critically important for saving our children.

Because of these staggering numbers, I’d like to share warning signs to identify traffickers and victims. Traffickers often:

▪  demonstrate jealous and controlling behaviors

▪  are significantly older than their companions

▪  remain vague about their profession

▪  buy or own ostentatiously expensive items

▪  speak very openly about financial matters

Their victims can:

▪  have histories of running away from home

▪  show signs of physical abuse (burns, bruises, cuts)

▪  have large amounts of cash, multiple cellphones or hotel keys

▪  display tattoos or branding related to money that they are unwilling to explain

▪  travel to other states or stay in hotels

▪  miss school inexplicably

▪  begin dressing less appropriately

▪  talk about wild parties

▪  show signs of gang affiliation

For help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline for confidential assistance at 888-373-7888 or text the BeFree Textline at 233733 (BEFREE).

Tiffany Cruse

Kansas City