GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- Human trafficking is a national problem and a growing concern for Colorado as well. Today experts came to the Western Slope to raise awareness about this alarming issue.
Human trafficking is a severe form of exploitation that takes the form of labor and commercial sex services through the use of force, fraud and coercion.
The Western Slope Initiative to Combat Human Trafficking Seminar was held at Colorado Mesa University earlier today. The Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking traveled to the valley to educate law enforcement, service providers, academia and healthcare providers about the crime of human trafficking.
Jillian Miller is the Program Manager at The Nurse Family Partnership in the Mesa County Health Department and attended the seminar, in order to educate herself and her co-workers.
“With our program and not just with our program, but Mesa County as a whole, we run into a lot of young people and it's an educational opportunity to learn about what the signs of trafficking and someone who has been trafficked are," said Miller.
A.J. Alejano-Steele, the Research Director at The Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking, led the training and says it's important to break the stereotypes of what human trafficking "looks" like.
“There is no typical profile of a victim or of a trafficker," said Alejano-Steele.
Alejano-Steele says Colorado has many industries in which people are trafficked; including agriculture, ski resorts, magazine crews and construction.
“What we're seeing in Colorado and what makes us a prime location where trafficking can occur, is that we have agriculture, we have tourism, we have I-25 and I-70 that get folks across our state, we have an international airport," said Alejano-Steele.
And today's conference educated the community on signs of someone who has been trafficked. Experts say human trafficking may be occurring closer to your home than you think. A sign is when children are forced to sell magazines or candy and say the money is for travel.
Officials say making children aware of the issue is the best prevention.
“Prevention on human trafficking in your home begins with having conversations with your kids. Talking about, not only is there the concern for things like kidnapping, but there may be people who want to be your friend, who may take advantage of you,” said Alejano-Steele.
If you missed today's educational seminar, the laboratory to combat human trafficking will be back in August and you can contact Tom Acker, of the Western Slope Initiative, by calling him at 970.248.1068 or e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.