DENVER — Volunteers are going business to business across Colorado to have a serious talk with strangers, and to hand out posters and share information.
These volunteers don't know who might see their posters about human trafficking, but that's the point.
This is the latest iteration of the state's efforts to raise awareness, so more people are watching for it and more victims and survivors know who to call for help.
That's why, on Friday afternoon, teams of volunteers were visiting coffee shops, restaurants and clothing stores along Tennyson Street in Denver. They were dropping off posters and materials about human trafficking to be posted on community boards, in the bathrooms and counters.
Maria Trujillo, the human trafficking program manager for the state, said the whole idea is to meet people where they are, whether that's at a store, gas station or truck stop.
She said a victim may only have a chance to use a restroom at a gas station and see a poster with a hotline number there. Or, someone may only be allowed to leave the house for a coffee run and see a poster in a coffee shop.
That's why the state decided to launch a campaign that mirrors the kinds we see in public health to connect with people one-on-one.
Trujillo said along with billboards and TV ads, there's been a change since the campaign launched in 2020.
"One of the big calls to action is to call Colorado's human trafficking hotline. We've seen an increase since launch of monthly phone calls, an increase by 51%. The number victims calling the hotline increased by 30%. Tips and referrals to the hotline on a monthly basis increased by 58%," said Trujillo.
Trujillo also said the quality of information the state is receiving is getting better, resulting in law enforcement opening investigations and cases going to trial.
The number of survivors connected to resources doubled to 200 people last year, compared to 100 in 2019.
When the situation allows for it, and survivors are asked where they heard about the hotline, they say they saw it on a billboard, or a sign in the airport, or a poster.
That's why Trujillo said every time a business owner agrees to help them out it makes a difference.
For Mike Cugini, a partner at Empourium Brewing Company, it was a an immediate "yes" to post the posters and information.
"I never thought of it until it came up," said Cugini. "It makes complete sense."
"I have children, a lot of children come in here. That would be heartbreaking," he added.
The state and volunteers are dropping off information all over the city, as well as around Colorado.
"We are going out all across Colorado -- Durango, Steamboat Springs, Salida, the I-70 corridor, Burlington," said Trujillo. "Truck stops and gas stations, laundromats, hotels and motels."
Volunteers from across the state are helping run this grassroots effort.
You can call the hotline at 866-455-5075 or text 720-999-9724.
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