When most people hear about human trafficking, they think of a teen girl who is traveling to Europe, who meets a charming guy at the airport, only to be taken and sold hours later. Alright, that’s the Liam Neeson movie, “Taken” but you get the point. Like many other societal issues, we automatically rationalize that the problem is happening somewhere far away. Unfortunately, human trafficking is right here in front of our faces but most people don’t recognize it.
For the last 16 years, I have been participating in rescues of women and children. In 2005, I started what is now an international effort to combat, among other things, kidnapping and human trafficking. Kingsman Philanthropic Corp. is now a non-profit with more than 5,000 security contractors who work on six continents on kidnap rescues, human trafficking recoveries and missing child cases.
Human Trafficking is a broad term. While it also involves modern day slavery, my focus has been the sex trade of teen girls, for the most part. If you’re wondering how this is occurring in your neighborhood, you must first understand that it doesn’t necessarily start off with trafficking. Many of the cases we have handled start with a runaway teen. Those teens are usually lured from the safety of their homes by recruiters who target troubled teens and even non-troubled teens who are feeling misunderstood by their parents, teachers, etc. They reach out for attention, usually on social media and are easy prey.
Recently, Kingsman has been involved in an increasing number of missing teen cases in South Florida. We focus on missing child cases, because that demographic often become enmeshed in the sex trade. First, by becoming addicted to drugs, like heroin, then becoming dependent on the traffickers for essential food and shelter.
A case that Kingsman handled in July involved a local South Florida teen who was enticed to run away by an unscrupulous crew she had met months earlier in a group setting. Police had been searching for her for six days when I was notified of the case. I contacted the parents and, within an hour, met them in a parking lot to get the details of their daughter’s disappearance. Within minutes, I had posted a $5,000 reward for information on the girl’s whereabouts. That led to 33 straight hours of searching and following up on leads we received, starting at the Coral Square Mall and ending in an apartment in Hollywood where the girl was located and recovered. I elicited the assistance of a local rapper with far-reaching social media contacts. Cases like this one, which started in Parkland and ended in a more dangerous part of southern Broward County, highlight that our seemingly safe neighborhoods are not exempt from these problems.
We’ve recently teamed up with a survivor, Haley Robson, who helped us locate a missing South Florida girl just last month. Robson appeared on the documentary, “Filthy Rich,” an expose on the Jeffery Epstein island. Haley is committed to helping young girls who may find themselves in a similar situation that she found herself in as a young girl. Together with Haley and other members of Kingsman, we are doing a speaking series around the country, beginning in Parkland on Oct. 5. The purpose is to bring awareness and prevent human trafficking with open discussion.
Teen runaways and human trafficking are inextricably linked. As parents, teachers and coaches, we must detect and deal with the behaviors that lead traffickers into our children’s social media direct messages in the first place.
Michael Evans is kidnap recovery agent with Kingsman. For more information about the nonprofit, email Email Dan Manning at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: https://therealkingsman.org/.
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