How Property Managers and Multi-Family Employees Can Help Uncover Human Trafficking

by Joe Killinger

Human trafficking is the act of recruiting, harboring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means and transporting for the purpose of exploiting them (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).

Most people in the United States are not aware of how prevalent Human Trafficking is in the United States.  Those that are aware of the problem believe that trafficking is predominantly for the sex trade, but in fact it is more for forced labor and that includes individuals that are working as maids in high income communities. If we know what to look out for, we may be able to help some of these individuals get free from the invisible chains that bind them.

The following are some telltale signs to look out for:

  • Too many people living in one apartment unit
  • Abnormal amount of traffic to and from an apartment unit
  • Locks on doors and windows to keep people in, instead of out
  • Closely supervised tenants (restricted in movement)
  • People who are always with others who must speak for them, but do not appear to know each other very well
  • People who do not have access to their own personal documents
  • People who are not allowed to drive themselves anywhere
  • People who are picked up every day in large vehicles and who return at the same time every night
  • People who show signs of abuse, malnourishment or fearfulness

It is estimated that approximately 700,000 to 2 million people are trafficked around the globe every year (Safe Horizon). There is such a range in the statistics because trafficking can be difficult to spot, and is an extremely covert and underground activity. If a person is in possession of drugs, the drugs themselves imply illegal activity, and are easier to find, confiscate, and convict.

Possession of a human being is a much harder area to prosecute. It is easier to move people from state to state, or country to country, which is why human trafficking has been named the fastest growing criminal industry (UN Refugee Agency). It is less risky to traffic a person than it is to traffic drugs, at which point human traffickers may then force their victims to commit crimes for them. Train your team to know what to look for (note: not during the application process). In the cases of labor trafficking, teach them to ask about where someone is from, their accents, their families, their jobs and sparking conversation can be a good starting off point. Please be advised that many victims of trafficking often do not consider themselves victims, or are terrified for the safety of themselves or their families, so you may not get a true answer from them, if directly asked. Victims of trafficking are constantly being monitored by their traffickers, so if it appears as though someone else feels the need to stop the conversation you are having with a potential victim, it could be an indication that something is not right.  I hope these few tips can shed some light as to some what you want to watch out for, I also recommend that you speak to your local Police department about further tips that they may feel are helpful. If you have any concerns or believe that human trafficking is occurring, you can reach out to the                               National Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888.

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