June 21st, 2011
10:54 AM ET

Community vigilance: 10 steps people can take to help combat human trafficking

By Siddharth Kara, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Trafficking expert Siddharth Kara is a Harvard fellow and author of the award-winning book, "Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery." For more than 15 years, he has traveled around the world to research modern-day slavery, interviewing thousands of former and current slaves. Kara also advises the United Nations and governments on anti-slavery research and policy.

Whenever I talk on human trafficking, I am almost always asked what people can do to help.

To be sure, the forces that promote human trafficking are immense -– from extreme poverty, to corruption, lawlessness, population displacement, gender and minority bias, economic globalization and others. In the face of such vast and complex forces, everyday citizens can feel powerless to make a real difference.

Nevertheless, there are vital steps that individuals can take to help bring an end to human trafficking and other forms of contemporary slavery.

Beyond increasing your knowledge of the issue, perhaps the most important way individuals can contribute is to form a system of human trafficking vigilance committees in their communities.

Siddharth Kara

It may sound daunting, but here are a few simple steps to get started.

1. Learn about the many signs  that indicate a person may be a victim of human trafficking or some other form of forced labor.

2. Assemble a core group of individuals who will set up and manage your Community Vigilance Committee (CVC).

3. Recruit other community members to join your CVC, such as neighbors and local business owners. Make a plan that suits everyone on how and when you can meet to discuss your efforts.

4. Make contact with local law enforcement, especially a local human trafficking police unit if you have one, to set up a system of reporting to a point person should any member of your CVC witness a sign of human trafficking. Follow the guidance of local law enforcement on the best ways you can assist them.

5. Make contact with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that focus on human trafficking (especially shelters), to discuss your plans and set up a system of referral should you need to pass along information about a potential human trafficking victim in your area. Follow the guidance of these NGOs on how you can be most effective in assisting them.

6. If there are no relevant NGOs or shelters in your area, think about setting one up!

7. Create a website in which you share your progress and learnings, so that you can coordinate with other CVCs to expand your reach, and also learn from each other about how to be more effective.

8. Set up a “Google Alert” for human trafficking. This will help you stay on top of trends and developments in the field.

9. Make contact with your local and state lawmakers to learn more about what they are doing to combat human trafficking in your area. If you feel they are not doing enough, try to persuade them to do more.

10. Should any member of your CVC see something worrying from the list of signs of human trafficking - do not intervene in any way individually or as a group. Meet and discuss what you have seen and report to local law enforcement as soon as possible.

If you follow these 10 steps, you will be well on your way towards making a considerable contribution in the fight against human trafficking.

As dedicated as law enforcement, NGOs, and local governments may be, they cannot be everywhere at all times. It is up to individual citizens to expand the “eyes and ears” of traditional anti-trafficking actors by taking ownership of their communities and being as informed and vigilant as possible.

Countless human trafficking victims have been freed, and numerous cases have been prosecuted thanks to the efforts of Good Samaritans who noticed something was amiss, and reported to police what they saw.

Today’s global anti-trafficking movement will benefit mightily from community vigilance efforts, which serve as vital initiatives individuals can undertake to help in the fight against human trafficking, one community at a time.

The opinions expressed in this guest blog post are solely those of Siddharth Kara.

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soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Worked in Asia

    Want to very quickly put a huge dent in the global demand for human trafficking/sex trafficking? We should shame the companies in Asia who freely hand out gifts of sexual services to their business guests. Of course, the receiving party's employers deserve public scrutiny as well, especially since a very large number of them are American and European companies wanting to do business in Asia.

    Most of the sexual providers involved are young girls (and boys) and because many of these Asian companies are rapidly trying to globalize, the sex traffickers they depend on can expect a very steady, and growing, source of demand.

    June 21, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Reply
    • Sean Gogarty

      This is an excellent point. In any prostitution business they can only survive if there are customers. How do we impact US companies sending their employees to Asia and India to be on board with monitoring the behavior of theirtraveling employees? Maybe a campaign to reach the PR and HR departments of some of the biggest Silicon Valley companies would be a good start.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Reply
    • Shraeve

      What about the sex workers who are consenting adults?

      June 21, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Reply
      • Kathleen

        If they've spent any part of their life as a slave, they deseve your compassion & help.

        June 23, 2011 at 3:00 am |
      • andacar

        What about them? They have nothing to do with this problem, and they are a miniscule part of the total population.

        June 25, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  2. Fred And Jed Radio Blog

    I had no idea the problem of human trafficking was so prevalent. Your ten tips were very informative and enlightening. Thank you for helping us all be more aware of this problem.

    June 21, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Reply
  3. Julie S.

    This has been going on, for decades. When I was a partner in a computer corporation and we were courted by N. Vietnam, we were all offered prostitutes. For me, that was the deal breaker! The men in my company were ticked off, but to me, it was something deplorable. We were to deal with the government, and here we were being offered teenage girls and boys. They said they'd pass on them, and I didn't believe my own partners. The govt. would take the ones infected with HIV/AIDs, and simply shoot them, instead of help them more often than not; their lives were worthless.

    How could I become part of that!? Of course, it ended the company, because of my moral standings. But I thought good christian men would understand that. Evidently not, when enough money speaks. It was also illegal to be setting up a cellular network, before our govt. okayed doing business, and I sure didn't wish to be going to jail for breaking our country's law. Guess many people have no scruples like I did.

    And years later, I can still look myself in the mirror. But I'm forever haunted by the thoughts of those little children. I seriously doubt I could've brought any home with me, which was my first instinct – adopt those, that no one wanted, and give them a FAMILY. But the way the world works, it usually doesn't help the children from other countries. Donating to groups that care for them, that's all I've ever found that gives those poor kids hope.

    Supply and demand – if we could only break the chain, that's the way to do it.

    June 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Reply
  4. Rose

    I want to say that sex trafficing is very real, and the ways they try to rope you in is slick. I was introduced to this issue about six years ago, on my job, if the woman that worked there wanted to keep their jobs they slep with anyone that approach them. I would not be a part of it so I quit. The stalking started as it is to this day. I left the state of texas and went to GA, and Fl, same thing happen,I was tracked via my cell phone.It created so, much confussion it caused me to loose my Flight Engineering job for the 727 airplane, I'm back in TX, now my home has been bug, what I mean is the have installed devices in some form where they can watch what I see on tv and if ther is voilence or somone being hurt the networksystem they have blow horns, or make some kind of noise to intemediat who ever is watching tv at tge tune they us airplane, buses, trains,commercial truckers, mail carriers, youname it.computerhacked as I write.So if there is something I can do to help this cause, let me know

    June 23, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Reply
    • LoganWon

      Put the tin foil hat back on you nutjob!

      June 26, 2011 at 12:16 am | Reply
  5. Star

    :"1. Learn about the many signs that indicate a person may be a victim of human trafficking or some other form of forced llabor." Where do you find a list of the signs and why aren't they listed in the article?

    "10. Should any member of your CVC see something worrying from the list of signs of human trafficking – do not intervene in any way individually or as a group. Meet and discuss what you have seen and report to local law enforcement as soon as possible." Without proof, what good are suspicions; will authorities actually investigate "suspicions"? And again, where is the "list of signs of human trafficking" you mention? A list of signs that someone may be harboring someone in servitude might even be more helpful than a list of signs that someone is being enslaved, as you might never have the opportunity to meet or see someone being held in servitude.

    June 25, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Reply
    • LoganWon

      Exactly, the article does not give out any usefull information. Kind of the same thing as obama's experience as a community organizer. All talk and no action!

      June 26, 2011 at 12:14 am | Reply
  6. LoganWon

    Wow 10 – 30 million slaves in the world. Way to be precise about your estimates. What a bunch of Bull. Yes these things happen, always have / probably always will.

    June 26, 2011 at 12:12 am | Reply
  7. redthreadmovement

    If you see signs of a potential human trafficking situation, please contact the 24/7 National Human Trafficking Resource Center: 1.888.373.7888.

    June 28, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Reply
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