Agencies receive grant to help battle sex trafficking

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Awareness of sex trafficking is becoming more common and the Grand Island Salvation Army is doing what they can to help victims.

“Only 1-2% of people are rescued or get out of trafficking and so that's a really low number and so the more we can help the better,” Salvation Army Human Trafficking Specialist Teshawna Sawyer said. “I think for awareness if we can stop the supply then we can stop the demand.”

The Salvation Army's fight to eliminate trafficking or SAFE-T is a program that helps victims. Many men and women don't have identification, clothes, or money when they are able to get away from their trafficker. SAFE-T works to get them back into a normal working life.

“Just the trauma in general and assimilating back into working environment, the triggers that they have are very difficult for them to mainstream back into regular life,” Sawyer said.

With a $5,000 grant from the Grand Island Community Foundation they can give the funds directly to help victims. The Grand Island Police Department received $3,000 to help train officers on how to prevent trafficking.

“We're hoping to get school resource officers involved in a program that we intend to put together,” Crime Analyst Jessica Hoback said. “But what we really need is to educate the public on what to watch for. It's the public that is going to be talking to these kids, interacting with the kids on a daily basis so they're going to notice the changes.”

An officer, crime analyst, and juvenile probation officer will attend training to help spot the signs of someone being trafficked.

“We are hoping to learn how to identify at-risk youth and intervene with those kids before it becomes too late,” Hoback said. “So working juvenile probation their going to have a whole different perspective on some of the kids they are talking to.”

They hope they can stop it before it even starts.