Law enforcement, medical professionals team up to take on human trafficking

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HREVEPORT, La. — It’s a growing problem in communities across the Shreveport-Bossier area — human trafficking.

“We try to find out how we can help once we identify a victim,” said Heather Owens, a state police sexual victims unit detective.

Human trafficking can be defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit. Sadly, it impacts even the youngest members of the society.

“In some specific cases where someone actually uses the word “pimp” or they had markings on them and suggested they were involved in human trafficking, those cases weren’t reported right away,” added Owens.

It’s even been a main point of concern for Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who earlier this summer announced the creation of the state’s first Office of Human Trafficking Prevention.

But law enforcement officials aren’t waiting to act. This summer they’ve stepped up their efforts in prevention these crimes and getting the medical community involved.

The U.S Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Louisiana put on the seminar, along with a group called PATH, Physicians Against Trafficking of Humans. But spotting the signs of human trafficking isn’t easy. Often times the victims themselves will be hesitant to report abuse and the ones keeping them involved in the dangerous and deadly trade.

“So this training needs to be held in order to help our first responders, doctors, and nurses to identify when a person is being trafficked and what are the signs and what can we look for,” said Laurie McGehee from the Free Coalition of Shreveport.

Last month, the team presented disturbing details of cases that have happened locally, but also gave the more than 90 medical professionals in attendance a look at specific details on how to spot and report the tell-tale signs of abuse.

It’s become a team effort to combat this growing crime.

The law enforcement community said if you see instances of human trafficking in your community to speak up and call your local police department immediately.