Experts explain how to report suspected human trafficking in Missouri

Published: Aug. 24, 2020 at 9:07 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - There is now a new way to report human trafficking in Missouri, which is meant to speed up the process, and save more victims from a form of modern day slavery.

“It can be any gender, any ethnicity, any age,” said Karolyn Schrage.

Karylon Schrage helps human trafficking victims in southwest Missouri. She’s a nurse and victim services coordinator in Joplin with Choices Medical and the RISE Coalition.

“I’ve seen everything from a trafficked young man at a truck stop all the way to a child that’s been trafficked by a parent in exchange for a hit of meth,” Schrage said.

Alison Phillips is the Director of the Human Trafficking Task Force through the Missouri Attorney General’s office.

“Of course every trafficking story is complex, it’s as complex as you can get,” Phillips said.

Phillips said what should not be complex, is how to report suspected human trafficking. Before now, someone who thought they might be witnessing someone held against their will could either call a Missouri-specific tip line or the national hotline.

“Using the same philosophy as 9-1-1, if there’s an emergency, we don’t want there to be any confusion as to what number to call,” Phillips said.

Phillips said now, all calls will be transferred to the National Human Trafficking Hotline based in Washington D.C. That number is 1 (888) 373-7888.

Phillips said the change has already sped up response times and saved lives. She said there was one example during which, it only took 29 minutes from the time the report was made to the national hotline, till authorities could respond to a Missouri hotel to make contact with possible victims. She said minutes can really matter, and everyone should be aware of the signs of control or coercion.

“That’s somebody who’s not talking for themselves, they have someone answering for them, watching over them, you can pick up a lot on body language. Look for people who don’t go together,” Phillips said.

Phillips said you don’t have to have an air tight case to report. Names, addresses and vehicle descriptions do help, she said.

“Make the call. Report it. Let the folks on the other end sort out whether it’s actionable,” she said.

Both women stress, if you see something, say something. You never know who you could save.

“We have a responsibility to look out for those that, maybe their voice has been silenced in some way,” Schrage said.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is available around the clock. The number is 1 (888) 373-7888. You can also text “HELP” or ‘INFO” to 233733.

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