Experts: Education Key to Combating Human Trafficking in NE
By Sara Kirkley, Weekend Anchor / Reporter - email
Grand Island, NE -
One hundred thousand children are at risk of being exploited in commercial sex trade every year, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
However, it's unclear how big of a problem human trafficking is here in Nebraska.
More is being done in the state. Governor Dave Heineman appointed a task force on human trafficking in 2012 and they released their first report last year.
The University of Nebraska at Lincoln has also started the first ever academic journal on the issue.
It was a talk led by her pastor on human trafficking in Nepal that got Kelsey Graham thinking.
"When we dug into it, we realized that it's happening here in our state, in our community. Interstate 80 is a gateway for human trafficking. Events like the College World Series, Husker football games, girls are getting trafficked," said Kelsey Graham, Local Night for Awareness and Action committee team leader.
Graham helped put on a panel on the topic at Grand Island's Evangelical Free Church, something Lincoln’s police chief says is needed.
"The more and more that we can educate everyone about it, the more eyes and ears that we have out there that can help us get a little bit more of a handle on it," said Chief Jim Peschong.
There's few statistics on human trafficking in Nebraska.
In a year, the governor's task force on the issue couldn't pin down any numbers.
We do know that the National Human Trafficking Resource Center received 122 tips from the state last year.
Experts say the number of victims in Nebraska is likely much higher.
"It's alive and well out there. We'd certainly like to know more about how much of a problem it is so we could wind up trying to figure out the best protocols, resources, how to best address it," said Peschong.
He said few communities have a plan to help victims, but domestic violence programs already in place could be a good start.
"Communities have to be geared up to be able to provide services: shelter, counseling, help this person get out of that way of life," said Peschong.
Graham said that's the goal of the Local Night of Awareness and Action.
"I hope that at least one girl can be saved," she said. “We can make a difference one person at a time, one city at a time.”
Graham encourages people to do a quick internet search on the topic to become more informed.