Lakeville police take new efforts to combat human trafficking
Video campaign part of public education effort
Traumatized and frightened, human trafficking victims can be difficult for police to rescue.
Physically abused, psychologically manipulated, isolated and threatened, those trapped in the modern-day slave trade live in overwhelming fear, enduring a severe psychological and emotional abuse similar to a domestic abuse victim.
In survivalist mode, many trafficking victims feel a loyalty, gratitude or dependence on their trafficker, according to a law enforcement manual that Lakeville police plan to use in developing a training program with Adri Carlson, anti-human trafficking leader at Hosanna Church in Lakeville.
Carlson, who recently organized the first Freedom Weekend event last month, met with police Chief Tom Vonhof and a team of officers Monday devising a multi-point training program for police and a plan to raise awareness in the community.
The meeting was set up last month when Carlson appeared before the Lakeville City Council to advocate for a partnership with the police and city to address human trafficking.
Vonhof described their meeting as “very productive,” and described a number of initiatives that will be taken to combat human trafficking.
Lakeville police officers will view a series of row call training videos, and receive one-hour department-wide training on human trafficking that Carlson will present in April.
“We’re moving quickly on this,” Vonhof said. “We feel it’s an important issue.”
The entire Lakeville police force will receive specialized training for identifying and reaching human trafficking victims, most of whom Carlson said police will encounter through a different avenue like a traffic stop or domestic abuse call.
Victims can be hard to help because of the brutal conditions they live under, lies they are told, and the threatened and real violence they experience.
Carlson said the training gives officers tools they can employ to reach trafficking victims.
“They can use a different line of questioning altogether to get to the truth of what the situation is,” Carlson said.
The Lakeville Police Department’s Emmy-award winning video program, “LPD Journal,” will also be utilized to create some public service announcement videos that Vonhof said will be broadcast locally and offered free to other cable networks.
“We’re very excited about that,” Vonhof said. “These are the kind of things that can run and raise public awareness.”
The collaboration aims to develop an appropriate youth education component utilizing the department’s school resource officers.
Human trafficking survivor Janine Montgomery, Eagan, was just 13 years old when she was gang raped, threatened and forced into prostitution while living in her parent’s Edina home.
Montgomery, who now leads New Beginnings, an outreach ministry to help human trafficking victims, said Midwestern teenagers are still targets today.
Reaching those targets is made easier because modern trafficking has moved from the streets to Internet, which also creates a new marketplace of hookups that could happen anywhere from a local home, business or motel.
Montgomery said online blogs and her interactions with students assure her that sex trafficking is happening in schools, including Burnsville, Eagan and Lakeville.
She said some girls start charging for sex to get extra “shoe money,” but become seduced by a “boyfriend” who increases mental and physical control until they are trapped in prostitution and the boyfriend emerges as their pimp.
Vonhof said he hopes this new focus could help save young people from that situation.
“This area of collaboration was about how to do a better job of educating our youth in terms of not letting them be victimized by this in the future,” Vonhof said.
Vonhof said this kind of collaboration with “community champions for a cause” has occurred in the past with citizens, including Lakeville’s “Pure Performance” drug and alcohol abuse prevention program in Lakeville high schools.
Vonhof said he likes working with community champions.
“They bring a lot of passion to the table for the issue, and helps us to coordinate community support and the resources to do things,” he said.
Carlson and Vonhof indicated the collaboration is just a beginning and have already set up a second meeting later this month.
“We’re taking this step by step,” Vonhof said. “I’m pretty excited about this.”
Vonhof said Sun Thisweek’s series on human trafficking played an important role in public education about the issue.
“The series of articles did contribute to raising awareness,” he said. “I believe our efforts in education and training with our officers, will keep someone down the line from becoming a victim of human trafficking.”