MIAMI (CBS4) – Miami is ranked among the top three places in the nation for human sex trafficking and now the city is looking to lead the globe in fighting to end the problem.
Police officers, prosecutors, airport employees and Port Miami employees are all undergoing a specialized training session. They’re learning to spot some of the signs of sex trafficking hoping they can intervene and save a child’s life.
“We need that million set of eyes,” said Susan Leah Dechovitz, Director of the human and sex trafficking task force for the Miami-Dade State’s Attorney’s office. “So if something looks funny to you, you call it in and the police will then investigate.”
They won’t give specifics of what they’re looking for. But they do say the rest of us can do our own part and call police when something just doesn’t look right.
“If you have any suspicion that a child is in trouble, that a child is being controlled by someone else,” said Trudy Novicki, Director of Kristi House. “If a child has a lot of gifts all of the sudden.”
Kristi House is a place that treats victims of human trafficking. Novicki said other things that can be a red flag are if you see a child that is calling an older man her boyfriend. Police said simple things that look odd can also be a warning sign to call 911.
“If it’s a suspicious house. There’s a lot of young girls there and you don’t think the girls live there,” pointed out Major Charles Nanny of the Miami-Dade Police Department.
Ken Pyatt, Deputy Aviation Director at Miami International Airport said he was compelled to get involved after listening to a trafficking survivor tell her story at an anti-trafficking event. He said that girl was forced through Miami International by her trafficker despite her silent pleas for help.
“What she said was that if you looked into her eyes you could see that she was crying out for help and she looked into the eyes of the agent who took her boarding pass,” remembered Pyatt. “But the agent was so preoccupied on the size of her carry on bag that the agent failed to see the look in her eyes and had she had noticed that, she might have been able to pull her aside and ask her what was wrong. That, of course, as an airport employee, hit a very strong chord with us.”
This is the first of its kind training around the country. Now agencies around the world are reaching out to Miami-Dade authorities in hopes of training their own employees to fight sex trafficking.
Kristi House offers its own training to anyone interested once a month. But authorities say the most important thing the public can do is to call in tips when they think something wrong is going on.