GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - This week Governor Pete Ricketts announced January 11 to be Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Agencies in Grand Island are celebrating the extra attention to the subject.
With Saturday being recognized as Human Trafficking Awareness Day, local agencies are sharing how they are combating the issue. (KSNB)
In 2011, Nebraska received an “F” grade for the efforts to combat human trafficking. Since then those agencies in Grand Island have been stepping up.
“Everybody here, particularly in Grand Island, has really grabbed on to the idea of a community based approach,” Nebraska State Patrol Investigator Tony Kavan said.
The YWCA has taken on a strong approach to prevention. They teach hotel and motel staff the signs of someone being trafficked and how to react and respond to get that person help.
“I think there's an image people have of the white van at Walmart driving around the parking lot who is going to jump out and grab you and throw you in the back of the van and that's really not what human trafficking looks like especially when we're talking about sex trafficking,” GI YWCA Executive Director Amy Bennett said.
The Nebraska State Patrol said they often see someone being sold for sex by someone they know. It is usually an older family member or a person who promises to take care of them. Agencies like the Set Me Free project focus on going to schools to help at risk kids.
“I think people that it's something that happens in other places,” Bennett said. “We think about it maybe in foreign countries but that it is happening here so it's really encouraging that other people are seeing it as an issue we need to be aware of.”
With the extra effort from the state, it now has an “A” grade. Agencies like the United Way advocate for legislation that could benefit survivors or prevention.
“The governor and the attorney general and the state patrol, and I can't speak for the rest of the state, but the Tri-Cities area is really grabbed on to this idea that we have to have an awareness that the folks we are dealing with are people and we need to treat them like people and they often come with issues that we can help with,” Investigator Kavan said.
While Grand Island is considered more rural, trafficking still has a prevalence and these groups want to do anything they can to stop it.
Hotel/Motel Training Thursday January 23
9:30am-11:30am at YWCA of Grand Island