TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and since 2007 more than 22,000 cases have been reported in the country, according to the Idaho Anti-Trafficking Coalition.
KMVT talked with the IATC’s executive director Jennifer Zielinski, who said it’s an epidemic in the Gem State.
“In Idaho, you're not going to see it in plain sight in the way you think you would. Most people still consider it prostitution, that there's individuals who are choosing this lifestyle,” however, that’s not the case says Zielinski. “They’re victims in one way or another. And how it attaches to human trafficking is it's done so through force, fraud or coercion.”
While anybody could be a victim, there are groups at a higher risk.
“Homelessness, or maybe some form of home life that's been destructive, substance abuse, or domestic violence or something like that," Zielinski said. "Unfortunately traffickers in Idaho use that vulnerability in order to lure people in."
There are some of things people need to look out for.
“Often times you'll see individuals who won't make eye contact, typically they're not extroverts, they become pretty introverted,” Zielinski said.
And if a person suspects someone of trafficking or being a victim.
“Do not approach anybody," Zielinski said. "Even the victim unfortunately, in most cases wouldn't even be able to identify themselves as a victim. We have to be the ones to notice, and we have to report it."
Reports can be made directly to 911, or by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.