Experts say human traffickers are out in full force now that kids are out of school
STUART, Fla. (CBS12) —
Kids are officially out for the summer and local experts say this is the time traffickers are out in full force.
"I want to put parents on high alert," said Lynne Barletta, founder of Catch the Wave of Hope, a non-profit organization designed to stop human trafficking.
She said during the summer months, traffickers are at beaches and in malls, anywhere children could be unsupervised.
"Unsupervised children is exactly what traffickers are looking for,"Barletta said. "That’s where they make their approaches and that’s where they try to begin their grooming technique."
While anyone can be a victim of human trafficking, she said 13-year-old girls and 11-year-old boys are the prime target and the recruiters are around the same age.
"They have expert training by their traffickers, so they know how to approach a child and how to make them seem non-threatening," Barletta said.
She said children can be trafficked from the comfort of their own home on social media or even gaming online.
So how do they get close to someone?
Experts say modeling or another summer job is the most popular technique.
"They may say to a very young girl, who may be a little unsure of herself as most of us were in middle school, you are so beautiful," Barletta said. "A trafficker will appeal to a child’s sense of dreams and wanting a better life."
Last summer, Barletta said a mother came to Catch the Wave of Hope after her daughter received an Instagram message that seemed strange.
"This is something that might appeal to a young girl in high school. They’re doing a big summer hiring push would you be down with this? That was that last sentence," Barletta said.
A first step in the recruiting process.
Barletta said knowing what your child is doing, monitoring their social media messaging and knowing their friends could save their life.
"If the child leaves and goes to meet them, and the parents are unaware of this, it could be too late," she said.
Click here to learn more about Catch the Wave of Hope and to help victims in the area.