LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — As National Human Trafficking Prevention Month ends, the FBI Las Vegas hopes to spread awareness of the problem and remind victims there is help available.

The FBI defines human trafficking as the illegal exploitation of a person. While often sexual, human trafficking can involve any form of labor or coercion. Oftentimes, that involves a person forcing someone to do a job under the guise of a better life.

“Human trafficking in and of itself involves way more than just the sex industry,” Ray Johnson, assistant special agent in charge at the FBI Las Vegas, said. “The human trafficking element itself is best described as modern-day slavery: forcing others to do the bidding of someone else.”

Nationally, the FBI reported nearly 1,700 open human trafficking cases as of this month. Last year, the number was closer to 700, the bureau reported.

Las Vegas ranks No. 6 for the number of calls out of any major U.S. city to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a report said. The statistic was last updated in 2017.

The greatest number of human trafficking victims here in the United States are American citizens, the FBI said, citing recent cases.

The FBI offered these warning signs:

  • Victims work in the same place they live
  • Poor living conditions
  • They let someone else speak for them
  • They are not in possession of their own travel or immigration documents
  • There are locks on the outside of doors where they live, rather than inside
  • They are constantly watched and guarded by someone
  • Their boss takes their pay or threatens them
  • They are lied to about the work they are to perform
  • They are not free to leave

“Whether you’re here legally or illegally, whether you’re here because you were promised the world and got nothing for it, we need to get you in a situation where we can help you,” Johnson said.

Ahead of Las Vegas hosting Super Bowl LVIII in 2024, Johnson said a team from his office was traveling to Phoenix to understand the dynamics of this year’s game. No matter what one event brings, he said human trafficking is a year-round issue.

“More people in a condensed location gives an opportunity for bad people to take that opportunity against them,” he said.

Anyone can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. The FBI is always reachable at 1-800-CALL-FBI. Tips can be submitted online at tips.fbi.gov.