Experts warn holiday shopping is prime time for human trafficking recruiters
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (WPEC) — Black Friday and the crazy holiday shopping season: the sales, the decorations.
The last thing on your mind is probably human trafficking.
But a local victim’s advocate says this is prime time for sex crimes and there’s a tactic criminals are now using that parents need to know about.
Young faces, including teens, are being used as recruiters. They might say they work for a modeling agency.
Then they’ll ask for a cell phone number.
“And begin a grooming process and also social media because they can use GPS coordinates to locate the child,” said Lynne Barletta, founder of Catch The Wave of Hope.
Barletta is on a mission to create awareness about sex trafficking to help victims get out of it, and her message to holiday bargain hunters is don’t leave your daughters on their own without a serious talk.
“These traffickers like to approach crowded areas because they know that they can get the admiration or the attention of a child that way,” she said.
Barletta cites an alarming statistic: 300,000 children in America are victims of human trafficking. Florida is third in the country, with Palm Beach County being third in the state.
She says she is appalled, calling sex trafficking modern slavery and the thought that a teenage girl just window shopping at a mall could be lured into that world or shoved into the back of a car.
Barletta says it’s on all of us to stop it.
“I saw it happening in our own backyard, it was something that I had to say, ‘Not on my watch, not in my country, not in my state and not in my neighborhood, no," she said.