DES MOINES, Iowa – The Des Moines Police Department is reminding people about human trafficking as festival season and large tournaments begin to make their way to Des Moines.
Human trafficking is an illegal exploitation of a person, with the most common forms being sexual exploitation and forced labor.
The Des Moines Police said a human trafficker will use someone’s vulnerability to trick them into doing acts they don’t want to do.
Human Trafficking Consultant and Trainer Mike Ferjack said large events like the NCAA Tournament draw in traffickers.
“'Cause there is some anonymity in that crowd. There is less likelihood of you being recognized. A lot of time people will come out of the places where people live because they would be recognized there and engage in certain behaviors believing they are more anonymous,” Ferjack said.
Ferjack said it is hard to look at specific characteristics, because it can happen at any time and to anyone.
“The marketplace is still online, and literally so it is anywhere two people can interface,” Ferjack said.
Ferjack said human trafficking survivors and people being exploited are not seen at the large events.
“Traffickers are smart enough not to do that. Where you have a camera on every pole and a cop every 10 feet. They are going to be in outlining areas outside of the event, but it is the event that brings people to the location. The online communication is what has established and coordinated how these people are going to get together,” Ferjack said.
Des Moines Police Department Sergeant Paul Parizek said the most important thing anyone could do is if you see something, say something.
“What we want people to do is if you see someone at a hotel with a bunch of women or women going in and out of hotel rooms. If neighbors see the frequency of massage parlors to start to pick up. We’re going to be watching the internet. So if you’re setting up a date, you might be setting one up with a cop,” Parizek said.
Urbandale Public Library recently held a human trafficking event about defining the problem and discussing efforts for survivors of the crime.
Youth Services and Shelter in Ames has two programs that educates people on preventing human trafficking.