The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (OBDD) held a human trafficking awareness seminar at Southwest Technology Center, Thursday night. Many Jackson County citizens, members of law enforcement, public safety, as well as individuals who work in the healthcare field, attended the one and half hour seminar. The purpose was not only to raise awareness by educating the public on human trafficking but also to close the gap between law enforcement officials and the citizens; therefore giving the citizens the knowledge and ability to identify and report any possible cases of human trafficking.
“There’s nothing that has Oklahoman’s more worked up than this,” said OBNDD Director, Darrell Weaver. “Because we can all relate to it.”
Human trafficking is defined as recruiting, abducting, facilitating, transferring, harboring, or transporting a person, one of three ways; by force, fraud or coercion, in order to subject that person to involuntary servitude, peonage, slavery, commercial sex, or bonded labor services.
OBNDD Director, Weaver identified the three R’s of human trafficking:
Rescue – law enforcement’s job is to rescue the victim
Recover – the victim has to want to recover and be free
Restoration – the victim needs their life restored; they need education, a home, etc.
“Human trafficking has a larger profit margin than drug trafficking,” said Weaver. “If we don’t do something, nobody will. It takes the people behind the scenes holding us up, that’s how we’ll win the fight. This is about one life, about saving one. It really matters.”
Mike Snowden, the OBNDD agent in charge of the human trafficking division, was the main speaker for Thursday’s seminar. Snowden came with a lot of energy, the ability to make the audience laugh, to get audience participation and provided valuable information about the topic at hand.
Now, going in to his 33 year in law enforcement and encountering situations revolving around human trafficking on a daily basis, Snowden has a lot of knowledge and was able to speak very fluently and conversationally about what human trafficking is, what it isn’t, the signs to identify it and how to be apart of the solution.
During his presentation Snowden stressed to the audience that this is not Hollywood and that it’s very rare that the situations seen on television, portraying human trafficking, would actually happen that way in real life. The driving force of this crime is money and the same criminals behind drug trafficking are responsible for human trafficking, “they just change commodities,” said Snowden.
Forms of human trafficking are, sex trafficking and labor trafficking.
Sex trafficking is often found in massage parlors, escort services, adult bookstores, modeling studios and bars and strip clubs. These are establishments that have been known to offer commercial sex.
“Commercial means business, someone else profits,” said Snowden.
Labor trafficking is when someone is forced into indentured servitude. Those victims can be found in sweatshops, commercial agricultural situations, domestic situations, such as maids and nannies, construction sites and restaurant and custodial work.
Cases can range from very small scale incidents to organizational operations. Once the OBNDD gets a call they start weighing the facts. If the girl is under the age of 18, it is human trafficking, nothing else needs to be proven other than age in those cases.
“Be careful what you read and believe. This is not Hollywood,” Snowden said. “Teach our girls that no matter how they fail, they’re worth more than that and teach our boys to respect women. We can stop human trafficking, when they stop having customers.”
OBNDD encourages the public to contact the agency’s Human Trafficking Unit at 1-855-617-2288 to report suspected Human Trafficking in Oklahoma.