How to Be Aware of Human Trafficking in Apartments

The crime can occur in cities, suburbs or rural areas. It's often hidden in plain sight. And it can occur anywhere. Even in apartment buildings. Here are some signs to look out for.


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On a recent cruise with my family, we were getting back on the ship at a port and the security guard asked us all for ID and our ship cards. Of course, our 11 month old’s card fell to the bottom of our beach bag, hiding somewhere under beach towels, $5 water bottles and copious amounts of sand.

Frustrated, I was close to snapping. The baby was crying. We were all hot and cranky. Couldn’t we just get back on? What was this guy’s problem?

And then, it dawned on me. They weren’t asking to delay us all from heading to the buffet, or messing with us because they were bored.

They were checking to make sure she actually came off the boat—and wasn’t picked up on the way.

It’s a hard pill to swallow. But human trafficking—or modern-day slavery—which can take the form of sex trafficking, forced labor and domestic servitude, is a major global issue. According to the International Labour Organization, there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking across the globe, creating an estimated $150 billion industry. A 2017 State Department Trafficking in Persons report found that there were only 14,894 prosecutions and 9,071 convictions in 2016. And, perhaps even more alarming, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, worldwide, almost 20 percent of the victims are children.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to look internationally to find cases of this. A 2016 Polaris study found 8,042 cases in the U.S., a 35 percent jump from the previous year.

Human trafficking can occur in cities, suburbs or rural areas.

It’s an invisible problem—hidden in plain sight. And it can occur anywhere. Even in apartment buildings.

And as a property manager, you might see things that would otherwise go unnoticed. It’s unlikely that this is going on in your community. But it’s also not impossible.

If you and your staff are aware of certain things to look for, you might be able to do something, should you ever find yourself in the situation of suspecting one of your residents of being trafficked.

According to the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State, there are several indicators to look for if you suspect someone is the victim of human trafficking at your community, including:

  • The person shows signs of being denied food, water, sleep or medical care
  • The person is often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers
  • The person is living in unsuitable conditions
  • The person lacks personal possessions
  • There are multiple people living in a cramped space

It’s hopefully something you’ll never have to deal with. But it’s a good idea to be prepared in case the situation arises. If you notice any of the signs, or something just seems off, report it. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888. It also offers other resources on its site.

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