'Keep your guard up': Expert warns parents about human trafficking

'Keep your guard up': Expert warns parents about human trafficking.

Keep your guard up.

That's the message to parents from a human trafficking expert. This following our CBS12 News report about a viral post made by a local mother claiming sex traffickers were targeting her daughter at Sugar Sand Park in Boca Raton.

“This really does happen anywhere,” said Tania Mead, the Vice President of the Human Trafficking Coalition of the Palm Beaches, who works closely with victims of human trafficking.

“Wherever kids are gathered, you are going to have traffickers,” Mead said.

Especially this time of year.

“We have to be careful because it is summer and the kids aren't in school so we have to be careful about who our kids are hanging out with,” Mead said.

She said in most cases traffickers use someone else to lure their victims.

“Let’s face it we do talk to our kids a lot about stranger danger which is super important but if I am a young person and someone close to my age maybe wants to strike up a conversation with me or be friendly that may not be as suspicious to me,” Mead said.

She advises parents to look keep their eyes peeled wherever they are.

“Sometimes it’s the people you least expect are the ones you have to be the most careful of,” Mead said.

Always check out wooded areas nearby, observe who is trying to talk to your child and always take your kids to the bathroom.

“When it comes to the restrooms don't just assume that your child is old enough and it’s OK to let them go to the restroom unattended you never know who is in there,” Mead said.

And one last thing never let your guard down.

“Traffickers look to exploit vulnerabilities. So I think thinking it will never happen to me or my kids is probably the biggest vulnerability we can have,” Mead said.

Mead said it is not always strangers who pose a threat to your kids. In some cases it’s someone you may already know.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888. Text 233733

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