State enlists public in battle against human trafficking

Monday, June 24, 2019

Despite the bloody American Civil War and centuries of efforts to end slavery, the practice is alive and well in 2019.

Authorities don’t know that’s what’s involved with the disappearance of an 18-year-old Trenton, Neb., woman, but human trafficking is among the possibilities.

Sunny Sramek was last seen and heard from in late April when she left with a 42-year-old man, according to reports, and the FBI is seeking any information anyone might have. Call Special Agent Michele Stevenson at the Omaha office, (402) 493-8688 if you know anything.

More information and a Gofundme account to help the family with expenses associated with the search are available at http://bit.ly/2WVNzXr

Statistics indicate more than 900 people are bought and sold in Nebraska every month, most of them along the I-80 corridor.

Gov. Pete Ricketts, Attorney General Doug Peterson and the Nebraska Department of Transportation have adapted the “When You Can’t Walk Away” from the Blue Campaign developed through the Department of Homeland Security.

Located in every rest stop along the interstate is a black-and-white poster with bold red lettering that depicts a lone person walking down an alley away from view.

The message can be read two ways: when a person is being coerced and cannot walk away from their perpetrator and when a bystander sees something, and they cannot walk away without reporting.

The poster provides the National Human Trafficking Hotline number: 1-888-373-7888, which is available to receive calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The hotline funnels calls to the in-state network established by the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force (NHTTF). Help is available in English, Spanish, and more than 200 additional languages through an on-call interpreter.

Most of us find it hard to believe that Nebraskans are being bought and sold and treated as property, forced against their will to work for those who think they own them.

That disbelief plays into the traffickers’ hands, their business thriving because we don’t see them at work.

Recent years have seen a shift in the tide, with lawmakers enacting clearer, tougher laws against human trafficking, and new laws protecting victims/survivors rather than prosecuting them.

More than 3,000 law enforcement officers and service providers have been trained by the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force in an effort to breathe life into the new laws.

To see or download the poster, visit ago.nebraska.gov. You can enlist in the fight against human trafficking by displaying it in your church, school, hospital, apartment building or place of business.

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