New Task Force Formed to Fight Human Trafficking - 8 News NOW

Adrienne Augustus, Investigative Reporter

New Task Force Formed to Fight Human Trafficking

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"She told me dogs have more rights than you," said Esperanza. "She told me dogs have more rights than you," said Esperanza.
"She sold me to him for $200," said Maria. "She sold me to him for $200," said Maria.
Terry Miller is the Southern Nevada director for the newly launched Anti-Trafficking League Against Slavery -- ATLAS for short. Terry Miller is the Southern Nevada director for the newly launched Anti-Trafficking League Against Slavery -- ATLAS for short.

Local agencies announced Tuesday morning a massive task force has been formed, aimed at combating the problem of human trafficking.

Dozens of agencies, including Metro, Henderson police, Nevada child seekers, Salvation Army, the AGS office, TSA, and the FBI are working together to identify people who are bring forced to work in the sex industry or as laborers.

The federal government says Southern Nevada is one of 17 comunities at high risk for human trafficking.

U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said, "Trafficked victims are often difficult to identify and therefore we must work together in our communities and neighborhoods to identify and assist those among us who may be victims of these horrible crimes."

The Department of Justice granted Southern Nevada $370,000 to launch a task force to fight the problem.

Human trafficking is what many call a modern day form of slavery. It hits so close to home it could be a brothel next door or the landscapers who maintain your yard. They are children, women, and men -- coerced or kidnapped.

"She sold me to him for $200," said Maria.

Some were taken to other communities or other countries while some, like Esperanza, are forced to work in sweat shops.

"She told me dogs have more rights than you," said Esperanza.

Others, like Maria, are exploited in the sex industry.

"He told me that he had bought me. That I was his slave. He paid $200 for me, and I was there to do whatever he want," said Maria.

Like many other trafficking victims, the psychological chains can be more powerful than any walls or locks.

"He threatened me. He hit me and tells me that he's going to go and kill my family, which was killing me little by little," said Maria.

Maria is a survivor of human trafficking. She is also an advocate for the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking or CAST for short. Based in California, CAST uses a video to alert people to the problem of human trafficking. Kay Buck is the executive director.

"Trafficking is such an underground crime that often times traffickers go undetected by law enforcement and what we have learned as a nation is that we need to employ very innovative strategic ways to find more victims," said Buck.

Before now, local law enforcement did not have a division targeting human traffickers. CAST is one agency that uses educational tools like a video, to help train officers in identifying traffickers and their victims.

Terry Miller is the Southern Nevada director for the newly launched Anti-Trafficking League Against Slavery -- ATLAS for short.

"Victims need to be rescued," said Miller.

Her job is to work with dozens of local agencies to prosecute traffickers and help the victims become survivors.

"They're a very unique victim. They often times need legal representation from the immigration clinics. They need medical attention, they need dental attention they need social services, and therapeutic services, housing, food clothing," said Miller.

Around the world, more than 800,000 people are victims of human trafficking. As many as 18,000 are in the United States. Some are right in our backyard.

Buck said, "You have to remember that in most cases, survivors of trafficking have nothing more than the clothes on their back. So it's important that we have safe, safe shelter to help them heal from the trauma and also help them become better witnesses for the case."

Now that CAST has helped train Southern Nevada's first responders, the Anti-Trafficking League Against Slavery will work to educate the public. Then everyone can work to help people like Maria and Esperanza.

Victim advocates say it is important to understand children involved in prostitution are considered human trafficking victims, not simply child prostitutes. 

They say anyone under the age of 18 being pimped or exploited in the sex industry is a trafficking victim, even if they are working in their own neighborhood.

Email your comments to Reporter Adrienne Augustus.

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