JOPLIN, Mo. — At one time, many people thought human trafficking was just a problem overseas. Sadly, that’s no longer the case.

There are local organizations and law enforcement agencies that work together to try and stop it from happening here.

January 11th is “National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.”
There are several local organizations and law enforcement agencies that work together to try and stop it from happening here in the Four States.

“Our troopers on every traffic stop are looking for signs that human trafficking could be going on,” said Trooper Sam Carpenter, Missouri Highway Patrol Public Information

Troopers like Sam Carpenter try to share what they know about the practice.
The North-South, East-West access that makes the Four States a transportation hub for legal trade, can also provide opportunities for illegal trade.

“The Patrol is making an effort on these next three days to focus on educating our commercial vehicle drivers, motor carriers, law enforcement, and general public on, you know, what to look for, things to look for if you see something suspicious and who to who to notify about that.”

Among the organizations that work closely with the Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies is the R.I.S.E. Coalition, short for Regional Intervention of Sexual Exploitation.

Maggie Schade, with the R.I.S.E coalition, says the more people familiar with the signs of trafficking, the better the odds of preventing or stopping it.

“Is there someone that refuses to let them be by themselves whether it’s in a doctor’s office or in a grocery store if they refuse to let them alone, that can be an indicator, um if they do not have their own ID or their own documents, paperwork, things like that, um if they aren’t allowed to go where ever they want to go, they don’t have the freedom to do that,” said Schade.

Schade says area young people may think they’re chatting with others their own age, until they find out otherwise, hopefully not too late.

“And then that turns from an online relationship maybe and then beginning the grooming process, them starting to buy them gifts or telling them they love them.”

Both Schade and Carpenter advise that if you spot a potential trafficking situation, do not try and intervene yourself, leave that to professionals, because you could be making matters even worse for the trafficking victim.

More information about how to spot signs of trafficking and resources can be found HERE.