JOPLIN, Mo. — The human trafficking hotline received more than 41,000 calls for help in 2018. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt calls the Four States a crossroads.
“Whether it’s drugs, other contraband or whether it’s human beings, they often are moved up and down the interstate highway systems or major east, west, north, south highways, and Kansas is right in the middle of that bulls-eye.”
Many of those calls came from the show-me-state, with Missouri having the 16th highest call volume in the nation.
178 cases were reported in Missouri, 121 in Oklahoma, 95 in Kansas, and 85 in Arkansas.
On December 26th 2019, there was a human trafficking arrest in Cherokee County.
“Our office received a phone call from an officer at Coweta, Oklahoma who had been investigating a missing person from about the first week of December,” says Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves.
“and that person had been able to make a frantic phone call to her mother that night saying she was at a club outside of Galena, Kansas.”
The victim alleges she had been driven from Tulsa by a man, who had physically assaulted her, forced her to dance for money, which he took, and prevented her from contacting her family.
Detectives say they located the woman at an area gentlemen’s club.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office arrested 29-year-old Gary Ballard, of Oklahoma, for forced labor and aggravated human trafficking.
“As far as human trafficking is concerned, it’s always been here. People just want to believe that we don’t have it locally.” says Sgt. Andy Blair, Joplin Police Department
“When you say human trafficking, a lot of people default to people being smuggled across international borders in the back of a truck or something that happens half way around the world.” says Derek Schmidt
There are several different kinds of human trafficking; there’s labor and sexual trafficking.
Sheriff Groves says it could be somebody who does not know the perpetrator. It could be someone who is involved in a relationship of some sort, even a romantic relationship.
With so many factors contributing to human trafficking. It is important to stay vigilant.
“You gotta trust your gut and if there’s something that you just don’t feel is right that needs to be reported, report it.” says Groves
“Just that one phone call could save someone’s life.” says Blair
“Human trafficking is real, it’s here, it’s in our communities, and yet it is often ignored.” says Schmidt
Check out Part 1 of Deja’s Human Trafficking Series: Keeping their eyes on the road — the mobile army rising up against human trafficking