AMES, Iowa -- Later this week, the Iowa Department of Public Safety plans to release its annual report on crime in the state. Among the statistics will be the latest number of reported human trafficking cases in the state. The issue was addressed at the Freedom in Action Conference in Ames on Monday.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, 42 cases have been reported in Iowa so far this year. At the conference, members of law enforcement, social workers, and educators learned more about how to spot the issue and how to take action against it.
A metro licensed child and adolescent therapist says she's taking what she learned at the conference and applying it at work right away.
“People being withdrawn, people being depressed, people being anxious, but we can ask further questions,” says Shellane Albaugh. “If someone isn't giving us eye contact, it could be just more than depression or someone who is not eating or is underweight. We can ask some of those other in depth questions, and it could be human trafficking.”
Iowa ranks about in the middle of pack nationwide for the number of people trafficked through the state. Since 2011, the Iowa State Patrol has lost nearly 10% of its troopers due to budget cuts. Officials say the manpower to enforce a human trafficking task force simply is not available.
In an effort to help tackle the issue, last month state leaders launched a statewide initiative to combat sex trafficking in hotels. The program will train hotel employees on how to spot trafficking. Officials estimate more than half of trafficking cases take place in hotels.