Friday, January 18, 2019

One in every seven missing kids are trafficked

One in every seven missing children ends up getting involved in trafficking. Those children being forced to have sex for money and many of them are right here in our area. January is human trafficking awareness month.

We have known young girls are being forced to have sex for money, but in recent years there have been more reports of young men forced to do the same.

Nationally, there are about 25,000 endangered runaways every year and those children are most at risk for this. Officials at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children say there are at least 100 cases of child trafficking in the Greater  Rochester area and it's even worse in bigger cites.

Even scarier, there are people looking for kids to target. Criminals are using social media, malls, parks and more to find vulnerable children and convince them to join trafficking rings often disguised as "families."

Ed Suk, New York Director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says there are signs parents and loved ones can watch out for to keep kids safe.

"Maybe there has been changes in their behavior, maybe they're wearing clothing has changed, maybe they're wearing clothes that are more provocative, access to large amounts of money, they may have significant cash in their purse or pockets...multiple cell phones hotel key cards, receipts from hotels in the area...things you wouldn't normally see in the hands of a teenager," Suk said.

Keep in mind, a child doesn't have to be missing to be trafficked. A lot of kids come right back home after experiencing this abuse. If you suspect a child is involved in any sort of sex crime, you can report it online on the CyberTipline by the NCMEC.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Movie filmed in Genesee County raising awareness about human trafficking debuts

by Veronica Meadows

Changing stigmas surrounding human trafficking.
That’s what a movie filmed in Genesee County is doing.
"Ring of Silence" made its debut at Flint's Capitol Theater.
Human trafficking is an issue that's not just happening in Genesee County where director Nicole Bowers Wallace wrote Ring of Silence, but across the globe.
“The more I found how prevalent this epidemic is not only in the cities but the suburbs I knew I had to do this movie,” she said.
Hundreds came to see the debut for Ring of Silence. It's shown through the lens of a 17 year old girl. She falls in love with an older man, eventually leading her to the world of sex trafficking. Michigan State Police Detective Trooper Amy Belanger says that's often how it happens.
“Usually the male in the relationship makes them think they have this future together and that's how this movie starts out and when he flips the switch then you start noticing changes. She's raped she's sexually, assaulted,” Belanger said.

Belanger works with Flushing Township Police Chief Brian Fairchild on the Genesee County Human Trafficking Task Force. He hopes this movie sheds light on the signs parents and teens should look for.
“Change in behavior, change in attitude, a sudden lack of attention in school and distancing not wanting you to know who they're dating,” Fairchild said.
Above all Bowers Wallace hopes this film open's people's eyes.
“Most people have no idea what's happening and how big the problem is and that's the biggest thing I want to take away,” she said.
Organizations across Flint stepped up with donations to make this movie happen.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Teen missing for nearly a year was kept as ‘sex slave’ in trailer, police say

POSTED 5:00 PM, JANUARY 15, 2019, BY 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Police have arrested seven suspected human traffickers after a 16-year-old boy who had been missing for nearly a year was found in a “filthy” trailer St. Petersburg, Florida.

“The teenage victim in this case was lured with promises of a better life,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said at a press conference Monday. “Instead, he was moved into a filthy trailer and used as a sex slave for nearly a year.”

The investigation began on May 9, 2018 after Louisiana officials contacted police in St. Petersburg with information about another missing boy, 17, who they believed had been lured through the online gaming app Discord.

According to police, the suspects used it to communicate with the teen, who they picked up and drove to St. Petersburg.

When investigators went to a mobile home in North St. Petersburg where Louisiana authorities said he was, they found both teens living in the trailer with four men, Mark Earl Dennis, Andrew Barry Dennis, Curtis Lee Gruwell and Michael Wayne Schwartz.

When investigators went to a mobile home in North St. Petersburg where Louisiana authorities said he was, they found both teens living in the trailer with four men, Mark Earl Dennis, Andrew Barry Dennis, Curtis Lee Gruwell and Michael Wayne Schwartz.

The suspect we were looking for in the human trafficking case is in custody. Curtis Gruwell turned himself in to #stpetepd this morning.

He’s charged w conspiracy to commit human trafficking and interference with custody.

Dennis initially told authorities he was the 16-year-old’s father, which turned out to be false, police said.

The 16-year-old, from Marion County, Florida, was 15 when he disappeared. Police say his family found a note from her son saying not to look for him. Investigators now believe one of the suspects, Eleanor Faye McGlamory, had befriended the boy and lured him to the trailer.

“For the next year, he was introduced to sadomasochism and used as a sex slave by Mark and Anddrew Dennis, Gruwell, Schwartz and their associated, Michael Ray Blasdel and JR Gauthier,” police said in a news release. During the time he was held in the mobile home he did not attend school and wasn’t given medical treatment, according to police.

All seven face charges of conspiracy to commit human trafficking and interference with custody. Mark Earl Dennis, Andrew Barry Dennis, Michael Ray Blasdel and JR Gauthier also face charges of sexual battery with a child under age 16.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

State police encouraging truckers to report potential trafficking

POSTED 6:47 PM, JANUARY 14, 2019, BY UPDATED AT 06:48PM, JANUARY 14, 2019

WEST MICHIGAN -- Michigan State Police are continuing the fight against human trafficking by enlisting the help of commercial truck drivers. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. So MSP along with officials in Ohio and Indiana are taking this week especially to alert truck drivers about human trafficking and asking them to keep an eye out for anything that seems out of the ordinary.

Motor carrier officer Jason Zylstra said, "They give us a lot of good tips about accidents that happen, about damage to the roadways, the 100 street bridge."

Zylstra said he spreads the word about human trafficking through an initiative and organization called "Truckers Against Trafficking" during routine inspection stops and at rest areas. MSP dubbed truck drivers the eyes and ears along highways, rest stops, and parking lots across the country.

“You see things, and you just don’t think twice about it. [Whereas] trucker drivers... they know that common environment," he explained.

Zylstra said, "So when they see something and they’re like why is this person…. it’s 10 degrees and that girl looks like she’s 15. She’s dressed in a miniskirt. What is she doing here?"

To know where to look for and who to call, the officer hands out cards and pamphlets to drivers. If you'd like to learn more about the program you can click here. The help line number is 1-888-3737-888.

Monday, January 14, 2019

In-N-Out Burger Matches Donations 3-To-1 To Fight Human Trafficking

The sign reads, “Human trafficking hides in plain sight. Help us fight this injustice.” It then encourages customers to donate at the register and says that In-N-Out has pledged to match all donations 3-to-1. There were also cash collection tins right at the register, and a few other posters up in the restaurant. How cool is that?

Human sex trafficking is one of our world’s biggest issues.

According to Equality Now, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting gender equality, trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. The scary part is that this is despite the fact that international law and the laws of 134 countries criminalize sex trafficking. At least 20.9 million adults and children are bought and sold worldwide into commercial sexual slavery or forced labor. Almost 6 in 10 identified trafficking survivors were trafficked for sexual exploitation, and women and girls make up 96% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Many organizations have joined the fight against this massive problem in our society, and now our favorite burger joint is one of them.
Slave 2 Nothing anti-trafficking campaign
Throughout the month of January—which is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month—In-N-Out Burger has been encouraging customers to donate to their nonprofit organization Slave 2 Nothing and help fight sexual exploitation.

According to the organization’s website:

“During January, in support of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, In-N-Out Burger® will match your donation 3-to-1 up to $250,000. Across all 50 states, victims of human trafficking silently cry for help. You can help us fight this injustice and bring hope to thousands in our very own communities. Human trafficking, also known as modern-day slavery, involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of exploitation through forced labor or commercial sex acts.”

Then, they list some heartbreaking sex trafficking stats. Check it out:

You can read more about In-N-Out’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit by clicking here. We took this info from their site during last year’s campaign:

“The Slave2Nothing Foundation’s mission is to free people from being enslaved to any person or substance. We will fulfill our mission to combat human trafficking by:
  • creating awareness, prevention, protection, and partnerships
  • by assisting survivors by encouraging and supporting effective programs and solutions.
In addition, we will assist individuals and their families in gaining freedom and healing from substance abuse and its effects through supporting programs that thrive in promotion, awareness, and healing from the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. We believe that together, we can help improve the lives of the thousands of people who become enslaved in human trafficking and/or substance abuse every year…

Slave 2 Nothing is supported primarily through donor contributions and internal fundraising activities sponsored by In-N-Out Burger. In addition, In-N-Out Burger pays all costs associated with Slave 2 Nothing, so that every penny raised goes directly to educating and eliminating human trafficking and supporting substance abuse treatment and prevention services.”

The company has been carrying out their promise by placing the cause front and center in their restaurants. We recently stopped at an In-N-Out nearby and were pleased when we saw the following sign right in the middle of the menu, and off to the side of the line at the registers:

All donations at In-N-Out are then collected by Slave 2 Nothing, In-N-Out’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to helping those caught up in slavery, and then dispersed in four ways:

Who will be the next to step up?
We at Fight the New Drug applaud In-N-Out Burger for joining in on this important cause and lending their resources to the fight.

If more companies placed an emphasis on making an impact on this issue that affects millions of people globally every day, we would be much closer to ending sexual exploitation in our society. And that’s something everyone should be able to get on board with.

"A family member was trading a child for rent': Familial sex trafficking a problem in the Upstate

By: Kirsten Glavin

Upstate advocates talk Human Trafficking Awareness:

GREENVILLE CO., SC - She was a straight-A student with parents in law enforcement.

Growing up, Cat Wehunt said her family was close, but looking back on her life, the 26-year-old could not remember a time where sexual abuse didn't exist in her life.

"I knew that I felt violated, I knew that my body felt violated, but I just didn't know how or what it meant or why it was happening to me," she explained.

Wehunt told a crowd seated at Greenville Health System Thursday that at 12 years old she was raped, and at 14 she had been sold for sex by her older cousin.

Although he was her trafficker, she said she still trusted him because he was family.

"These are the people that are supposed to take care of you, these are the people who are supposed to protect you and know the most and are closest with you, so you already have that bond."

Wehunt's situation is common in South Carolina.

In 2016, familial trafficking was the most common form of relationship between a trafficker and victim in the state, according to the Attorney General's Office.

"We do see a number of cases where family members are trading children," said Jonathan Bastoni, task force officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and sex trafficking investigator at the Greenville County Sheriff's Office.

"We've worked at least 2 in the last year, one where a family member was trading a child for rent."

Bastoni has helped coordinate large-scale, multi-agency prostitution stings like 'Operation Millstone' in February, where 7-News exclusively went undercover to capture investigators taking traffickers into custody.

Last year, the county's sex trafficking unit said they made 19 arrests, and added that they are now just starting to see traffickers go through the court system after the human trafficking law first went into effect 6 years ago.

"We're beginning to see how our judges will interpret this law and what kind of sentencing we are going to get for this, and we obviously hoping that they'll give good sentences that are applicable to the crime," said Bastoni. "But we're beginning to see that, and that's kind of exciting to look forward to in the future."

Jasmine Road is an organization in Greenville that offers services to sex trafficking victims and provides help.  On their website, they say they "offer women who are trapped in a cycle of sexual exploitation and addiction a path to freedom, a haven for healing, and the opportunity to flourish, leading to generational change and the betterment of our Greenville community."

For more information, click here:

Switch is another local organization that helps fight human trafficking in the Upstate and provides services to victims. On their website, they say: "Since 2012, we have led the effort to fight human trafficking and sexual exploitation in the Upstate of South Carolina. We have spoken to over 21,000 community members and have served over 115 individuals on the road to restoration."

For more information, click here:

Friday, January 11, 2019

Trinity Mount Ministries / NCMEC - Active Missing Children Posters

Active AMBER Alerts
NameMissing FromIssued ForAlert Date
Jonathan Nunez-CoronadoPhoenix, AZAZSep 1, 2018
Victor Nunez-CoronadoPhoenix, AZAZSep 1, 2018
Marjani AquilPenn Hills, PAPAJan 16, 2019

Notice: The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® certifies the posters on this site only if they contain the NCMEC logo and the 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678) number. All other posters are the responsibility of the agency whose logo appears on the poster.

Select an image to view the poster for one of these missing children.