FBI Washington Field Office Recognizes Human Trafficking Awareness Month
Human trafficking, a form of human slavery, is a multi-billion dollar industry and is not a thing of the past.
The FBI’s Washington Field Office’s (WFO) Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force actively investigates matters involving child exploitation, juvenile sex trafficking, and adult sex/labor trafficking. The task force is composed of federal, state and local law enforcement with Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia and works closely with the Department of Justice to pursue sex trafficking prosecutions. In 2017, WFO’s task force recovered approximately 50 juveniles from human/sex traffickers that have traveled through the DC Metro Region.
“Human traffickers have no limits and will find victims anywhere,” said Special Agent in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division. “We will continue to work closely with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to identify human trafficking operations, prosecute offenders and help bring justice on behalf victims. We need the public’s assistance to help identify suspicious behavior and signs of potential human sex trafficking.”
Human trafficking includes forced labor, domestic servitude, and commercial sex trafficking. Anyone can become a victim, regardless of their race, color, national origin, disability, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, or citizenship status.
As recently as January 19, 2018, Michael Edward Gunn, 41, of Dumfries was sentenced to 30 years in prison and ordered to pay $648,000 in restitution for sex trafficking two minor victims from July 2013 to July 2015. Gunn, along with three others, forced, threatened, and coerced young women to engage in prostitution.
Recognizing potential red flags and knowing the indicators of human trafficking is a key step in identifying victims and helping them find the assistance they need. Signs that may indicate someone is being held against her or his will and trafficked for sex include:
- They do not hold their own identity or travel documents
- They appear to suffer from verbal or psychological abuse which intimidates, degrades, and frightens
- They are not permitted to speak for themselves
- They appear nervous, especially if presence of their trafficker
- They are not allowed to move about by themselves and seem to have little understanding of where they are.
The FBI has trained victim specialists who are responsible for the victim’s well-being, keeping victims informed about the status of their case, and helping victims reclaim their freedom.
If you believe you have observed indicators of human trafficking operations or are a victim contact law enforcement, the FBI at tips.fbi.gov or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 1-888-373-7888.