FAIRBORN — The Ohio Attorney General’s office in 2016 investigated 135 human trafficking cases. The City of Fairborn is doing its part to combat the modern-day enslavement as the fire department recently underwent training that highlighted signs of human trafficking as they respond to emergency situations.
While the local firefighters/EMTs may not start a criminal investigation and arrest individuals upon finding indicators of human trafficking, they can be aware of the signs in order to alert the proper authorities. The appropriate actions Fairborn firefighters/EMTs would take if they found a case of local human trafficking is similar to the steps they must take if they see signs or elder and/or child abuse.
“You could be on a run in anyone’s house or business and you may see signs of something like this going on,” Fairborn Fire Chief Mike Riley said. “If they suspect a situation, they can alert [police], who can investigate and follow up on it. We (firefighters/EMTs) wouldn’t have much to do with it other than being aware and seeing signs of some things … We’re not going to resolve what’s happening, but we can report it to the [proper] agency and see that it’s followed-up with.”
The training was provided by Abolition Ohio, an anti-trafficking coalition in the state. It was taught by one individual and the city’s own Lorna Furderer, who works in the Community Development office and has been involved with the organization for approximately three years.
Through Abolition Ohio, she also trains other individuals to recognize the signs, such as business owners, nurses, hospital officials, psychologists, doctors and others. In addition to her duties as a volunteer to a number of organizations and to the city, Furderer is a real estate agent and is currently working toward establishing housing for local victims of human trafficking.
She said she recognizes the need to establish housing for victims upon their rescue as well as rehabilitative programs to help them relearn how to function in the world after undergoing such trauma. Specifically, Furderer and others seeking to help rescued individuals are looking into purchasing a horse farm to both establish housing and allow the victims to have a therapeutic release in order to build trust, feel a sense of responsibility and ultimately reintegrate back into society.
“It’s here and it’s got to be talked about,” Furderer said.
Red flags that indicate an individual may be speaking to a victim of human trafficking include meeting individuals who lack freedom to leave situations, have little to no personal possessions, lack knowledge about the area, frequently undergo residential moves and indicate that they owe a large sum of money and/or bring home no or very little pay. Their stories may be inconsistent and they may also show signs of physical abuse.
However, human trafficking perpetrators may limit the amount of conversation victims may have; individuals may take note of victims being spoken for.
“The control issue is a huge part of it,” Furderer said.
Victims frequently are tattooed crowns or bar codes on their neck or wrists with initials or numbers. While kidnapping is a means of recruiting individuals into human trafficking operations, victims more often know the perpetrator and have built trust. When victims are found, they don’t typically see themselves as “victims” and instead think highly of their perpetrator. Some individuals are born into human trafficking.
“A lot of the victims go willingly,” Furderer said. “A lot of them are groomed over a period of time. They don’t think they’re victims, they’re ‘surviving’ … [Perpetrators say things like] ‘I did this for you, you need to do this for me,’ — it’s a psychological molding.”
Individuals who wish to take part in combating human trafficking can do so in unexpected ways, such as buying fair trade and used clothing instead of brand new threads. Abolition Ohio reports that 70 percent of human trafficking victims are put into forced labor.
Meanwhile, 22 percent of victims are forced into sexual exploitation, 3 percent are forced into combined sexual and forced labor, three percent are forced into begging and 1 percent are forced into low-level criminal activity.
Abolition Ohio reports that across the globe, 27 million individuals are victims of human trafficking in more than 160 countries. In the United States, 200,000 individuals are victims of human trafficking in all 50 states with up to 17,500 new individuals becoming victims each year.
Human trafficking generates $150 billion in revenue each year, according to Abolition Ohio
“They’ve estimated that it will overtake drug trafficking industry,” Furderer said. ” … It’s a huge, important topic.”
Individuals wishing to join the fight against human trafficking can be aware of the signs and talk to their friends about what to look for. And, of course, “see something, say something” applies — if signs of human trafficking are spotted, individuals should call the police and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 888-3737-888.
Furderer said the next step for the City of Fairborn includes establishing a protocol if human trafficking is discovered in the community.
“We’ve added another tool to the toolbox, but we hope we never have to use it,” Riley said. “If we do, we hope it can bring something positive to [resolve] the situation.”
Reach Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.