As Detroit auto show nears, federal authorities issue list of human trafficking warning signs

Human trafficking operation revealed during last year's show


DETROIT – With the North American International Auto Show in Detroit nearing, Homeland Security has issued a list of human trafficking warning signs.

Last year, a police investigation revealed a human trafficking operation during the show, one of Detroit's most popular events. During the auto show, agents said, there's typically a 150 percent jump in the number of people offering sex.

READ: 2 children saved, 22 people arrested for human trafficking during Detroit auto show

According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, at its worst, human trafficking is akin to modern-day slavery.

Some victims may pay to be illegally transported into the country, where they are then forced into prostitution, involuntary labor and other forms of servitude. 

Some cases of human trafficking include children, and foreign nationals aren't the only people who may become victims.

“Human trafficking cases are notoriously difficult to pursue,” said Steve Francis, HSI special agent in charge. “Victims and their families are often intimated into compliance with the threat of violence and other forms of abusive coercion. We urge members of the public to educate themselves on these heinous crimes so they recognize the indicators. An educated public can help law enforcement rescue individuals in these situations and ensure those committing these acts are punished.”  

Homeland Security issued a list of questions that can help to identify human trafficking.

• Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
• Has a child stopped attending school?
• Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
• Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
• Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
• Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
• Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
• Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
• Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
• Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
• Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
• Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
• Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
• Does the person appear to have all their belongings in a plastic bag, easy to grab if forced to quickly move locations?
• Is the juvenile using a false ID or lying about his or her age?
• Does the person appear to not be familiar with his or her surroundings, e.g., not know their location?

While the presence or lack of certain signs isn't always proof of human trafficking, anyone who notices suspicious activity is asked to contact HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or ice.gov/tips. Never confront a suspected trafficker or alert a victim to any suspicions.

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