Lunch spoiled despite early apology

Probably 50 lunches remained untouched when participants in the Human Trafficking Conference at Oral Roberts University took the noon break.
Some had been warned.
Texas Ranger Sgt. Chris Burchell opened the second half of the law enforcement section by apologizing early to some in his audience for ‘‘spoiling their lunch.’’
It was unknown about how many lunches might have been eaten by those attending Burchell’s section.
The conference sponsored by the Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans and the Oral Roberts University psychology department focused on making people aware of the seriousness of the issue and the local impact that it has on communities.
After his opening comment about lunch, Burchell went on to describe the impact of human trafficking and the willingness of those involved in the criminal action to kill indiscriminately, even their own for violating rules.
As he started the video, Burchell warned, ‘‘don’t look at the tattoos or clothing on the people in the film and think they are the only ones involved. There are many without tattoos wearing business suits also included in this business.’’
‘‘We are dealing with 15 and 16 year-old pimps going into truck stops and for a couple hundred dollars hook customers up with 13 and 14 year old girls,’’ Burchell said.
Human trafficking does not discriminate between U.S. citizen or foreign national, whether the person is rich or poor or the color of the skin, he said.
Burchell, with 27 years in law enforcement, said he has worked at least 1,200 cases during his career with 480 involving sex crimes. Eighty percent involved child sex issues.
The human trafficking infrastructure is well established and has an unlimited budget, he said. By contrast, law enforcement budgets are limited and the request for night vision glasses to observe suspects that would help build a case are eliminated because they cost too much.
Human traffickers laugh at the U.S. Border Patrol, he said. They lure the women to the U.S. with the promises of jobs and money they can send back to their families. Instead, once they have safely crossed the border, they are taken to places where they are raped many times during a week, then sold to others. New owners tell the women that because they cost them so much, they must pay back that debt, a process that might take several years.
‘‘Do you remember the movie ‘Smoky and the Bandit’?’’ he asked. Traffickers use similar tactics. A member of the group travels in front of a van transporting the human cargo.
They distract troopers and while they are getting a ticket, the van goes by unnoticed. The van stops at a grocery store parking lot in San Antonio. The girls are split up, put into other waiting vehicles and taken to other locations.
Texas authorities, recognizing the problem several years ago, sent officers to Florida, a state 10 years ahead of other states in the nation in dealing with human trafficking, to teach officers how to recognize and deal with the problem.
Within three days after they returned home, those Texas officers were able to identify and arrest people involved in the rings and freeze $1.3 million in assets.
‘‘We do outreach to help victims when they are found,’’ he said. Law enforcement also has enlisted the help from the faith-based community, a coalition of churches from the Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities.
There are no theological differences in this group and all are focused on helping people escape from bad situations, he said. All recognized a need in the community and stepped up to help.
‘‘That help is both physical and psychological. Among the reasons they need medical help is their sex organs are worn out.’’ Burchell said.
Communication with young people today is critical, Burchell said. Just 25 years ago it would have been inappropriate for parents or counselors to ask kids about their sexual activity. That has changed and today and when asked, many young people will admit to having three or more sexual encounters.
‘‘It really gets down to parents knowing where their kids are and what they are doing,’’ he said. ‘‘Some can be lured into the trap when offered a wine cooler. But when they are having sexual encounters for shelter and food, the trap is even deeper.’’
It is impossible to determine the exact number of people — girls and boys — involved in sex slavery because they are moved often to prevent detection.
Laws are in place requiring bars and other establishments to post a warning sign about the illegal activity, along with the telephone number 888-3737-888, a national hotline if a person thinks there is a possibility that human trafficking is going on. Callers remain anonymous.

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