A sizable crowd of concerned citizens attended a presentation about human trafficking on Tuesday March 20 at Sulphur Springs Middle School. Because of our proximity to Interstate 30, a major transport artery, co-directors Steve and Pam Phillips of the local non-profit NE Texas Heart of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center felt it was time for local citizens to become more aware of this growing problem.
Laurie McGehee, Manager of Probation Services for Caddo Parish Juvenile Services Department was the speaker. She is also involved in the “I-20 Coalition”, a group of agencies and concerned citizens who live and work along the Interstate 20 corridor from Ft. Worth , Texas to Jackson, Mississippi. She is also is part of a multi-disciplinary team of law enforcement and child welfare agencies, public defenders, probation officers, US Marshalls and FBI. This team is reaching out for public awareness of human trafficking along the I-30 corridor which stretches through Hopkins County. During the presentation, tips were given about warning signs and characteristics of individuals being trafficked for sex or labor as well as tips on how to protect your children. Among other facts presented were that on the average, trafficked victims are most often females 11-13 years old, but that numbers of young male victims are on the rise. Victims are often “marked” or targeted through social media after making expressions of being lonely, scared or wishing to run away, and they become “high risk” for trafficking. Persons who make initial contact with high-risk individuals may seem very nice and even loving, promising to help them achieve a better life.
McGehee referred to Mazlow’s Heirarchy of Needs, a psychology chart which defines the levels of human need and the motivation to fulfill these needs. Persons who are in need of the lowest and most basic: food, water, shelter, etc. are often the most vulnerable. They can become targets for operators in the trafficking business. In time, these operators can also become the victim’s vehicle to move up the chart of psychological need to receive safety, love or belonging to a group. This pattern makes it difficult for the victim to get out of “the life” once they have become introduced to it.
The Heart of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center in Sulphur Springs can provide parents and other concerned persons with materials needed to be aware of the rise in human trafficking. The office is located at 407 South Davis Street. Or you can contact [email protected] or 903-440-1665. Or find out more by contacting local law enforcement agencies or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.