Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, R, has created a statewide business council that aims to fight the human trafficking industry. He calls the crime a growing epidemic in the state and nation.
“Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery,” says Hawley. “It affects and destroys the lives of those caught up in it.”
It’s estimated that there are more than 20 million people enslaved worldwide but that few of them are identified as victims. In 2016, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received nearly 27,000 calls and 8,000 human trafficking cases were reported. The organization says Missouri ranks 17th in the nation in reported trafficking cases with many of those involving minors.
During a news conference on Tuesday at the Missouri Chamber of Commerce in Jefferson City, Hawley says his office will offer free online tools to help workers in the fight against the illegal trade.
“We hope that this effort, our training, our encouragement for businesses to take a bold stand against trafficking that this will help equip businesses all across the state and in every industry and walk of life to better identify and act if they witness possible human trafficking,” says Hawley.
He says most of trafficking business bought and sold online happens during business hours and sometimes with company equipment.
“Our goal is to help every business in this state take a bold stand against trafficking, say that trafficking will not happen in their business, it will not happen during business hours, it will not happen using business resources,” says Hawley.
“This is a problem that effects every single Missourian and it is a fight that every Missourian can participate in to do something for the cause of justice, for the cause of liberty, for the cause of safety and protection in our society and in our state.”
Businesses and organizations participating include the Missouri Hotel and Lodging Association, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the Municipal League, Schnuck’s Markets, the Truman Medical Center and Missouri American Water.
The coalition is the latest initiative in Hawley’s crackdown on trafficking. Earlier this year, Hawley issued consumer regulations targeting such criminals, formed a statewide task force to combat the illegal activity, and led the largest anti-trafficking raid in Missouri history.