First responders, police officers, and educators from our state attended a workshop on Human Trafficking and related issues. West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center and the Department of Homeland Security hosted the event.
Those who attended the event included everything from city police officers and undercover detectives to authors and teachers. Attendees learned what to look for in their investigations, and in the community, to see if human trafficking is involved.
The actual learning material isn't available to the public and press. The Director of the WV Intelligence Fusion Center, Tom Kirk, said it's for good reason.
"The reason why this is a closed meeting," started Kirk. "Is because we're teaching police officers that, but a lot of that we're not putting out to the general public because then the traffickers would correct those little things that we look for. Those red flags."
A good anti-trafficking response requires awareness of the problem.
West Virginia has incoming signals that human trafficking is happening here. According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center in Washington D.C., there were more than 50 phone calls, and eight online tips made in West Virginia to the center in 2013.
It's definitely happening in West Virginia," said Lara Powers from Polaris and the Program Specialist at the NHTRC. "It's one of our lower call volumes. However, all of the surrounding states have a lot of activity so that can give you an idea of those stats being a representation of awareness of the hotline number and awareness of the issue. The cases we do have involve sex trafficking of minors, sex trafficking of adults."
Labor trafficking exploitation calls have also come in from around the state.
Both the Fusion Center and the NHTRC say if you notice any suspicious activity, even if it isn't illegal, report it to either of their hotline phone numbers.
Fusion Center: 1-866-WV-WATCH