Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) continues to crack down on human trafficking in King County, particularly in high-profile locations like Aurora Ave., as the organization has made 70 trafficking arrests this year in Northeast western Pacific.
“We continue to see sex trafficking continue in all the different cities in the Pacific Northwest in general,” HSI Seattle Senior Agent Robert Hammer said on the Jason Rantz show on KTTH. “And then we also have labor trafficking in various areas, primarily in southern Oregon and eastern Washington.”
Hammer said these trafficked people end up in these situations for a myriad of reasons, including substance abuse issues, problems at home, or being a runaway minor.
“Fraud, force, or coercion are the three main factors that we really focus on when looking at our investigations to see if someone is being defrauded, deceived, or manipulated,” Hammer said. “Are you caught against your will and you can’t get out of this situation?” Something like that ? These are some of the great things we see here in this region.
On average, 300 people buy sex along Aurora Avenue in King County each day, according to HSI Special Agent Jayme McFarland. McFarland and her team distribute bags full of essentials to women who may be trafficked, including resources and contact information.
HSI works with federal law enforcement agencies of various sizes to mitigate and stop human trafficking, including the King County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI.
“We really work together as law enforcement to get out and figure out what’s going on on the streets and figure out who the traffickers are,” Hammer said. “And then we also have an opportunity. And I think that’s where we need to rely more on our local law enforcement partners to tackle the demand side, because when a lot of our local community is on the streets, actively seeking sex with minors, in exchange for money, we must prosecute these individuals, as they are predators.
An estimated 500 to 700 children are forced into prostitution each year in King County, according to Port of Seattle Data.
“The pursuit of these traffickers requires specialized units. I mean, it’s hard for your uniformed officers to be there,” Hammer said. “We need these undercover operations. We need undercover detectives there. And that’s why we’re trying to partner up and augment some of that by being there, but it’s a limited supply.
For all information and resources, visit Seattle Police Page on human trafficking.
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