Human sex trafficking is a big problem in our area. In fact, one local group says we rank 20th in the nation.
That's why the St. Charles Coalition Against Human Trafficking hosted a conference at Spencer Library in St. Peters Tuesday. Those involved say there needs to be more awareness and prevention. They say parents can help by teaching their kids about the warning signs. For example, strangers may approach them on the Internet or at malls, offering an opportunity to model or sing. Coalition members say families should thoroughly investigate before accepting.
"It's not a city problem,” said Kimberly Ritter, director of development of the Exchange Initiative. “It's a county problem. It's a suburb problem. It's everywhere and everyone needs to realize that because we need to protect our children and inform them that they need to be on the lookout. They need to be aware."
"I am a survivor of human trafficking myself,” coalition board member Christine McDonald said. “I was a victim as a teen and spent 20 years - that is 7,665 days - trapped in slavery. If we have enough information, we don't have to just come out into crisis when there is a victim."
Coalition members are also urging everyone to download the TraffickCam smartphone app. It allows you to upload photos of your hotel room, which can help law enforcement determine where perpetrators of sex trafficking are committing their crimes.