Special Report: The Losing Game

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) - The interstate you take to get from point A to point B in El Paso throughout the day, is also the corridor human traffickers use to transport victims, according to the FBI.

El Paso's location across the border from Mexico and along the way from east coast states to New Mexico, Arizona, and California make a stopping point for illicit acts like prostitution as well.

This surge of trafficking is seen more in anticipation to high-dollar events such as the Super Bowl or the Olympics, according to FBI agents.

"The thing people should be aware of when those events are happening is that again there's no typical profile for trafficking victims, so if something doesn't seem right notify law enforcement take those extra steps," said FBI Special Agent James Hicks.

Considering the high volume of commuters using I-10 on a regular basis, the FBI is turning to El Pasoans to be more aware of their surroundings. Unlike the general perception of human trafficking occurring in a foreign country with a forceful kidnapping, Supervisory Special Agent for the FBI Edward Dominguez tells KTSM that stereotype, although not completely false, does not represent the face of human trafficking in the United States.

"Victims that we encounter in our investigations are domestic victims, victims that are located right here in the U.S., that reside right in the U.S. and that are targeted in the U.S., said Dominguez.

He says victims are lured either by financial or emotional need by their traffickers to the point where it becomes normal to them and they do not report the abuse.

FBI agents say it is difficult to describe what a human trafficker or their victims look like because human trafficking does not discriminate in gender, age, or looks.

"We've seen just your average car being used, we've seen semi-trailers it just depends on the situation and the person who is heading that organization," said Dominguez.

The FBI says before traffickers get to their destination, they travel on the same road you do, which is why the public is asked to be alert in spotting the signs of someone who may need help --such as if a person avoids eye-contact, looks malnourished or has a tattoo as branding.

"The thing people should be aware of when those events are happening is that again there's no typical profile for trafficking victims so if something doesn't seem right notify law enforcement take those extra steps," said Hicks.

If you witness someone who may be a victim, the FBI asks you take down as much information as possible, such as license plate numbers or the direction they are traveling.

"Traffickers are always on the move looking for places where they can get the most financial gain where there are more customers and large events," said Hicks.

 


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