The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the developing Northcentral PA Human Trafficking Response Team are hosting a full-day training seminar on human trafficking at the Little League International Recreational Hall on Monday, Oct. 7.
"Human trafficking is the second most profitable criminal enterprise, second only to the drug trade, and it is happening right here in North Central Pennsylvania," Mae-Ling Kranz, director of Wise Options at YWCA Northcentral PA, said.
A form of modern-day slavery, victims of human trafficking are forced into labor against their will, often without host communities being aware of it.
"Typical situations of human trafficking have included minors, often runaways, and adults being sold for sex. Trafficking can happen at places like truck stops, restaurants and massage parlors. And there are occurrences where children are sold by parents in exchange for drugs or to pay off debts," Kranz said.
Other types of victims include coerced, unpaid domestic and farm workers. Lured by false promises, human trafficking victims may live and work under lock and key. They may be monitored by security cameras and kept captive by boarded windows and barbed wire, according to a YWCA Northcentral PA press release.
It might be hard to imagine human trafficking as a local problem - but it is. Because of the region's proximity to interstates and highways, human trafficking victims frequently travel through the area, according to the press release.
"First responders, district attorney offices, advocates for sexual assault victims and children and youth agencies in Bradford, Tioga, Lycoming, Union, Snyder and Northumberland Counties are working together to stop human trafficking in our communities. Our counties surround the Route 15 corridor. Human trafficking is a crime and traffickers are profiting from the abuse of others," said Lycoming County Judge Joy Reynolds McCoy.
Traffickers often target vulnerable people with histories of abuse. They use violence, threats and lies to intimidate victims, according to the press release.
The goal of the seminar is to raise awareness, provide education and strengthen relationships between law enforcement and other government agencies to further develop a regional Human Trafficking Response Team.