COLORADO, USA —
A new law signed by Gov. Jared Polis focuses on getting more people trained to spot the signs of human trafficking across the state. It specifically focuses on outlying and rural parts of Colorado that may not have access to resources to these kinds of training.
Maria Trujillo oversees the Colorado Human Trafficking Council, a group that will help with this training. She said human trafficking is so hidden, some people in Colorado don’t believe it's happening in their communities.
"We had a case in Jefferson County," Trujillo said. "Of a mother convicted of trafficking her own 12-year-old daughter to an Australian man through the internet."
She quickly brought up another incident.
"We had a case in Conejos County of an older man who recruited an intellectually developmentally challenged young woman from Oklahoma and brought her to Colorado and used her as a domestic servant," she said.
Several agencies already have a training in place, including Aurora Police. Denver Police set up a human-trafficking team. The Denver District Attorney’s office did the same. The district attorney, Beth McCann, previously wrote, “When I started as DA, I established a human-trafficking unit to focus on investigation and prosecution of traffickers. We also collaborate with many partners through the Denver Anti-Trafficking Alliance task force which enables us to better identify labor- and sex-trafficking victims, connect these individuals with the help and services they need to heal, and prosecute those who profit from exploiting others."
RTD also trains its bus drivers to keep a watchful eye out for any signs of trafficking. However, not every agency in Colorado has access to those kinds of resources.
Democratic Senator Joann Ginal helped write the bill and said, over the phone, “It recognizes that our law enforcement across the state, especially in rural areas, have limited resources to training for human trafficking.”
That’s why the law, signed by Gov. Polis on May 31, is directing the Colorado Human Trafficking Council, mandated by the legislature, to fill in those gaps by offering training for free, focusing on rural Colorado and creating an online training that individual people can participate in.
"Many agencies have four or five people," Trujillo said. "And may not have the capacity to send folks to a two-hour training.”
The law sets aside $72,128 for fiscal year 2019-20 for the Department of Public Safety, according to the fiscal report. That money will help pay for someone to carry out the training and materials. There is a sunset clause, so in four years lawmakers will revisit if they want to continue this program.
The training focuses on:
1.) Identifying what human trafficking is
2.) Human trafficking laws
3.) Data collection
4.) The dynamics of human trafficking
5.) Investigating human trafficking
As for the prevalence of human trafficking in Colorado, Trujillo said it's hard to say because data is tricky to record. However, Colorado laws changed in 2014 that aligned state laws with federal laws and helped identify human trafficking as well as coercion. Since then Trujillo said there was an increase in human trafficking cases.
"We had three convictions on issue of human trafficking between 2006 and 2014," Trujillo said. "One was in the process of being overturned. Then the new laws passed in 2014, we are seeing much bigger numbers and getting sentences of 400 years for traffickers in our state. Some of the biggest sentences in the country."
It doesn't remedy the fact that those battling human trafficking need as many people as possible to keep an eye out for it, which is why the training is open to others like health care providers, social workers and even teachers since children can be targeted.
"We also have students who are recruiters for traffickers within the school system," Trujillo said. She said sometimes they can be students or sometimes someone posing as one.
The state said it is ready to help with training and those who are interested can reach out to the Colorado Human Trafficking Council.
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