Community Round Table Addresses Human Trafficking In the Region

In 2015, Minnesota had the third–highest number of human trafficking cases according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

DULUTH, Minn. – Human trafficking continues to be a big concern here in the Northland.

St. Louis county officials and several local agencies participated in a roundtable centered on that topic.

They discussed an initiative called the “Blue Campaign.”

A program created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to end human trafficking.

This round table comes after Rep. Michael McCaul, Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, visited Duluth to learn about security related issues at the port of Duluth and Superior.

Representatives from congress, medical providers, law enforcement agencies and advocates were all a part of the three hour conversation.

The focus is on human trafficking in the region.

“People see now that trafficking is something that happens here and it’s an issue we need to face,” said St. Louis County Commissioner Beth Olson.

In 2015, Minnesota had the third–highest number of human trafficking cases according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA) offers support to victims of sexual violence including those from human trafficking.

“We have a really solid intervention strategy here in Duluth and we’re really tightening down these protocols to work as a community to get them connected to services,” said Mel Alvar of PAVSA.

One of its programs designed for young people called “Not a Number.”

“We’re right there available giving them an option to follow up with an advocate, if things are brought up for them,” said Alvar. “We’re doing these groups over and over again in places like arrowhead juvenile center where we’re seeing the highest place victims of just everything.”

Human trafficking is a billion dollar industry with more than 20 million victims every year.

Olson says human traffickers often follow the same cycle as drug traffickers and sometimes they’re the same person.

She believes partnerships on the local, state and federal level are key.

“If a child is under 18 and we suspect them being trafficked, it’s a mandatory investigation by human trafficking,” said Olson.

The necessary steps to end human trafficking start with the prosecution and investigations.

“Resources for local law enforcement to be able to put the hours in that are needed on these cases,” said Olson.”Resources for the computer forensics to be able to quickly get through everything they need to look at.”

Another topic city leaders discussed was the need for adult housing to help former victims of human trafficking.

Duluth has many resources available such as safe harbor Minnesota and the Duluth Trafficking Task Force.

If you or someone you know is a victim you can also call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

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