Troutdale looks at human trafficking
In fighting human trafficking, part of the battle is awareness.
Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery, said Deputy Keith Bickford, manager of the Multnomah County Sheriffs Office Human Trafficking Task Force. Its a crime that exploits men, women and children from all over the world, including the U.S.
With such a broad focus, local officials had to first recognize human trafficking wasnt limited to big cities it occurs everywhere.
I, like most people, thought human trafficking was an international issue, said Commissioner Diane McKeel. When (Bickford) finished speaking (at a citizen patrol meeting) saying it was here in our schools, in our parks, in our shopping malls it was so troubling I went up to him and asked how can we do something about this.
At the time, McKeel hadnt been elected to the Board of Commissioners. Once she took the position in 2008, she said she wanted to focus efforts on combating human trafficking.
We knew our first challenge was the awareness piece. Thats how we started out, McKeel said of an advisory committee. We focused on victims and services. But we also knew there were two other pieces to this. One is traffickers, one is buyers. So weve moved into those areas.
Working with the East County Gang Enforcement Team, Fairview Police Officer Brad Robertson said theyve been able to start chipping away at the issue.
I think human trafficking is starting to get recognized as more of a problem and thats why were addressing it now, Robertson said.
Through gang crime investigations, Robertson said the enforcement team has gained information about human trafficking, and has had some success prosecuting those cases. But it hasnt been easy.
The issue police have is its very easy for a victim to hide in plain sight, he said. When youre looking at something thats as delicate as human trafficking, the last thing a lot of victims are going to do is give information to police in front of the person whos been abusing them for months or years.
Occasionally victims will approach police, or family members might speak up. But with that a rarity, Robertson said for now, the team has worked on targeted prosecution.
If we know a gang member is actively engaged in promoting prostitution, were going to focus specifically on that person, he said.
Moving forward, Troutdale intends to collaborate with the county and any other interested entities to raise awareness on the issue, and work toward a solution.