CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa joined representatives from state and local law enforcement and local non-profits to reinforce their commitment to combat human trafficking.
U.S. Attorney Kevin W. Techau held a press conference Monday at the Marion, Iowa, Police Department, in cooperation with HSI, the Iowa Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Enforcement and local non-profit Cedar Rapids Gives, to make the announcement.
January is national Human Trafficking Awareness month. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to combat human trafficking are organized under a program called the Blue Campaign. Working in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations, the Blue Campaign strives to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice. Through the program, DHS raises public awareness about human trafficking; leveraging partnerships to educate the public to recognize human trafficking and report suspected instances.
“Human trafficking threatens lives globally and even happens in our state,” said U.S. Attorney Kevin W. Techau. “Traffickers are sophisticated and use force, fraud or coercion to lure victims and then force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. These vulnerable victims need to be identified and rescued. In addressing this scourge, we work best when we work together, and I thank our federal, state and local partners and Cedar Rapids Gives for joining us today to address this issue.”
“We recognize that this crime is not confined by geo/political boundaries,” said Marion Police Chief Harry R. Daugherty. “This is why the Marion Police Department has taken a pro-active approach by crossing jurisdictional lines and working with other agencies, to bring justice to victims and by holding offenders responsible for their crimes.”
Chief David Lorenzen with Iowa DOT Motor Vehicle Enforcement serves on the Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) national board and has been active in addressing this issue within the state. “It was common sense that thrust Iowa into becoming active in fighting this hideous criminal nightmare. Our officers take this initiative seriously and interact with trucker drivers and concerned citizens daily. We believe this program will have a positive impact.”
Teresa Davidson, president of Cedar Rapids Gives, a non-governmental organization dedicated to prevention, rescue and restoration to victims and survivors of sex and labor human trafficking said, “While it is critical to have law enforcement and legislation to investigate, rescue and prosecute these cases, it is also important to provide the specific and unique services survivors of human trafficking require.”
Christi Geisler, herself a victim-survivor of human trafficking, spoke about how she was victimized and the signs law enforcement should look for when they come across a possible victim who might be too scared to seek help. She also noted how these victims can be further victimized within the judicial system when there is a lack of understanding. Geisler stated she was lucky to have a strong family support system when she was rescued, but not all victims have such support. Governmental and private support is essential for a successful return to normal life.