Local KC FBI agents shed light on human trafficking

Michael Ronnebaum
July 25, 2017 - 6:50 am
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Kansas CIty, MO - The discovery last weekend of a sweltering, hot semi trailer full of dead and dying immigrants outside a San Antonio Walmart store sheds fresh light on the problem of human smuggling and trafficking in the United States. 

The International Labor Organization estimates that worldwide, forced labor and human trafficking is a $150-billion-a-year industry.

FBI agents say they work around the clock to help people who are forced into human trafficking situations and many of the victims are runaway teens who are suspicious of the people who are trying to help them.

"When these victims are approached by law enforcement or individuals they don't know they generally have a rehearsed response to questions," said Bridget Patton, spokeswomen for Kansas City's FBI office.

The Internet has become a recruiting tool to gather information on children and younger teens. The predators often do not discriminate on the basis of age. 

"The FBI has found victims as young as nine-years-old being victims of sex trafficking," Patton said.

Trafficking ring leaders often operate through extensive criminal networks. In order to decrease the number of victims the FBI task force works in partnership with more than 400 state and local agencies across the U.S.

The difference between trafficking and smuggling is an important one. Human smuggling involves migrants being facilitated with entry into a state through illegal means whereas trafficking must have the threat of or use of force, coercion or deception against a victim.

The victims in the San Antonio incident were likely drawn to the United States by the promise of jobs and better living conditions. 

One victim said he paid a smuggler $5,500 for passage across the border in an air-conditioned vehicle, the Associated Press reported.

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