BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Employees of the Louisiana Department of Family and Children’s Services received training on how to identify victims of human trafficking on Feb. 10.
It’s an unexpected combination, but experts say human trafficking can happen after a natural disaster.
“Traffickers take advantage of that,” says Leanne McCallum, Task Force Coordinator for the Greater New Orleans Human Trafficking Task Force.
The Greater New Orleans Human Trafficking Task Force taught employees at the DCFS office in Baton Rouge how to look for red flags in victims.
The task force is scheduled to host the training throughout the state.
Michelle Lackovic, a Principal Investigator with Louisiana Hurricane Response Hub says, “People aren’t aware especially of the vulnerabilities that are present post-disaster, particularly with workers.”
Experts say traffickers often use psychological control, “By threatening or abusing someone.”
Officials say human trafficking is more likely to happen after a natural disaster because that’s when some people are the most vulnerable.
Warning signs can include, signs of physical abuse, malnutrition, basic health-related issues, McCallum says, “Sometimes there are tattoo or branding involved. It can just look like a person who isn’t allowed to speak for themselves.”
Since 2016 McCallum says the Greater New Orleans Human Trafficking Task Force has helped more than 420 survivors. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. She says there’s a large, hidden population of victims who don’t often come forward, “Traffickers can take advantage of folks through different types of labor, whether it’s construction, rebuilding things or it can be for sex trafficking as well.”
McCallum says no specific age group is vulnerable to trafficking. The task force in New Orleans has served kids a young as a few months old to people in their late 60s.
Experts say everyone should learn what human trafficking is and what it doesn’t look like.
If you suspect human trafficking you can report a tip Go here to report a tip anonymously at http://www.nolatrafficking.org/report-a-tip.