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State agencies join forces to combat human trafficking

In 2020, 78 human trafficking cases were reported in Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa — With World Day Against Human Trafficking on July 30th, Secretary of State Paul Pate says he's teaming up with the Department of Public Safety and the State Department of Transportation to create a greater awareness around human trafficking. 

They plan on doing this by working with businesses and community members to recognize and stop the issue. 

In January 2022 Pate launched the Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking (IBAT) initiative. Pate says he has recruited hundreds of businesses across Iowa to help spot and stop human trafficking through.

"We have over 500 businesses doing that now. But we can do better, we can do more. It's like a neighborhood watch initiative," said Pate.

Pate's office is also working with other state agencies to combat human and labor trafficking.

With interstates 80 and 35 intersecting in Iowa, Sergeant Joe Nickell with the Iowa DOT says he works to train truck drivers on what human trafficking looks like. Through training and national non-profits like Truckers Against Trafficking, DOT hopes to put the brakes on trafficking on the road.

"We've had the opportunity to partner with most large tech companies in Iowa. We have over 40,000 of our drivers trained here in Iowa, we've either done directly or facilitated that training," said Nickell

Chris Callaway, special agent of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, says he's seeing a slight increase in the amount of tips the department is receiving.

"Could be because we're coming out of COVID, could be the training that has been done to the Hotel and Lodging providers, could be the increased awareness among the general public. All those things, we hope can lead to an increase in tips," said Callaway.

The Public Safety Office also provides free online training for lodging providers to learn and recognize the signs of human trafficking. 

Pate says collecting data surrounding this issue is complex making it even more important that if you see something say something. 

"It's one of those crimes, it's very hard to get statistics on, because so much of it slips between the cracks," said Pate. "These operators are using social media. So they're not easy to track down."

All three departments say fighting this mission has been increasingly difficult as social media posses more opportunities for recruiting individuals for human trafficking.

The human trafficking organization, Recognize and Report, lays out top recruitment tactics.

  • Someone acting as a romantic partner and possibly proposing marriage 

  • A family member who influences another member into a trafficking situation

  • Someone offering to help with money, food or a job

If you or someone you know need help please call or text the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 or text "IOWAHELP" to 20121.

RELATED: Iowa Secretary of State announces business coalition to combat human trafficking

RELATED: No, most sex trafficking victims are not kidnapped by strangers

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