LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Human trafficking is modern-day slavery — and it’s not all sex-trafficking.
But how can you spot it, and what should you do when you see it? Nevada's top FBI agent says the signs are all around us, you just have to know what to look for.
"This is going to shock you. Most human trafficking people are United States citizens," said Aaron Rouse, the FBI's agent-in-charge for Nevada.
Sex trafficking is all around us. Rouse said he needs us all to be eyes and ears to stop this growing problem.
"You might be the person that spots something like that and have the opportunity to call the police, call the FBI and report that suspicious activity that allows us to act and save a life," Rouse said.
Keith McCoy is a citizen advocate for spotting human traffickers. He says the signs are subtle, but they’re there.
“It's hard to wrap your head around when you start to consider the numbers and how large it is and how prevalent it is, and what is actually happening on a daily (basis),” McCoy said.
“There are signs that you can find. A lot of times it'll be someone who's dressed much differently than the person that they're with," McCoy said. "Maybe it's a female who is a little more dressed up than the gentleman she's with.”
And Rouse told me despite what you may think, Las Vegas is no more busy with human trafficking than any other American city.
"So really, there's no difference between Las Vegas and other areas. This is not just an 'us' problem," said Rouse. "This is an international problem...and all of the 50 states, all 56 field offices of the FBI are actively engaged in countering human trafficking."
Human traffickers prey on vulnerable young people — often online — and eventually use fear to keep them enslaved.
"The majority of people who are trafficked are groomed into trafficking," said McCoy. "They are young children who are runaways, who are maybe in disenfranchised homes. They're at-risk youth, and these people will go online, they will start conversations in chat rooms. They will empower these women to feel as if they're they're loved or they're cared for."
Victims of human trafficking are equally men and women, and in about half the cases human trafficking feeds a growing illegal labor market.