Human trafficking poses threat in central Nebraska

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - The Nebraska State Patrol and local coalitions are trying to bring awareness to the issue of human trafficking, which they say is a big problem in central Nebraska.

Even being far from the coasts, human trafficking infringes on the good life.

“We know that on average 65 individuals are sold for sex in Grand Island every month,” Heartland United Way Community Impact Director Valerie Roth said.

The NSP is working with organizations like the Grand Island area coalition on trafficking to teach people the signs so they can report it.

“The kids you would be least likely to believe if they came and told you were in trouble, those are your kids that are at risk,” NSP Investigator Tony Kavan said.

Heartland United Way recently received funding to begin teaching school children about the sex trade and how they can identify when it happens to someone they know.

“I mean really it's helping kids to realize what human trafficking is,” Roth said. “There is a misconception that if someone follows you around in Walmart they're trying to traffic you. But really what human trafficking is when someone is trying to manipulate you.”

Investigator Kavan says most people are brought into the sex trade by someone they know, either by a family member or someone who gives them a promise of a better life.

“If you have a young person who maybe doesn't have a great home life and they meet somebody on the internet who seems friendly and actually seems to care about them for the first time, you know, those kinds of things unfortunately can be a concern,” Investigator Kavan said.

Many people who are brought into sex trafficking at a young age tend to stay in it into adulthood if they can. One woman the NSP had come in contact with said she didn't see any other options.

“Her statement to me was ‘What was I going to do? Go to a McDonald’s and say hey I am in my mid-20's and I didn't graduate from school and I have no job to put in the job history portion of this job application and I really don't want to tell you why,’” Investigator Kavan said.

Heartland United Way has many resources for victims to safely report crimes made against them and if they are seeking any sort of support or recovery.

“Here at the Nebraska State Patrol, we start by believing when victims come in to report to us and if you are experiencing those victimizations here in Grand Island, the State Patrol is a safe place for you to come,” Investigator Kavan said.

United Way has partnered with the Crisis Center to provide counseling for those who have been victims of sex trafficking. They hope to continue to grow their coalition and raise awareness.