Human trafficking might sound like something that can’t happen in peaceful Utah, but it does. Last year the Utah Attorney General’s Office investigated 49 different human trafficking cases, leading to eight prosecutions. Luckily, Utah has a specialized strike force that was created especially to combat human trafficking.
“We are one of the only task forces that full-time does human trafficking cases,” said Brendan Call, the section chief of the Special Investigations and Public Corruption Unit. “We get them from several different sources. We have a Utah SECURE Strike Force tip line and then the national tip line, and we also get referrals from different police agencies who need assistance and also from different victim centers.”
Call oversees the SECURE Strike Force for major felony crimes and human trafficking.
“Both labor trafficking and sex trafficking are happening in Utah. The ones that we’ve actually investigated the most is sex trafficking. We see it in Utah every single day,” Call said.
Call said that because of trauma bonds between traffickers and their victims, it’s rare for a victim to simply leave. This makes it difficult to prosecute human trafficking because under state law adult victims are only considered trafficked if force was used.
Utahns can assist victims by being aware of signs of human trafficking and alerting the tip line.
“There’s populations that are more prone to being trafficked: runaways, people traveling in weird ways," Call said. “Some indicators: bruises, signs of physical trauma, withdrawn behavior. When a person doesn’t have control over their personal schedule or their own identification documents, a lot of the time look for labor trafficking. Signs of drug addiction and coached or rehearsed responses to questions is another one.”
According to Call, other signs include sudden changes in behaviors and relationships. Visit the Utah Attorney General's website to learn more signs and to contact the tipline.