Arizona has one of the highest volumes of human trafficking in the country, and the Starbright Foundation works to educate the public on the issue.
The foundation recently released a short video highlighting the problems Arizona sees with human trafficking, and the people who are affected. Cari Sparks, speaker and director of social media for Starbright, says the video is meant to make an impact and show that slavery still exists today, despite how hard that fact is to stomach.
The Valley is a hot spot for this problem for a number of reasons. The number of sporting events and conventions which attracts thousands of people is one attractive factor for traffickers. Sparks says being so close to the border is a contributing factor, but it is not one of the larger reasons. The major roads and highways that pass through the state is another factor because it aids the traffickers in moving quickly.
The best the everyday person can do is stay educated in order to protect their loved ones, Sparks says. There is no typical look of a child or adult who is being trafficked, just as there is no stereotypical look for what a trafficker looks like. A traffickers can be anyone from the housewife to the businessman to a high school student, Sparks says.
According to Sparks, there are two primary kinds of traffickers. There is the gorilla pimp who will find someone in a parking lot and immediately take them. Then there is the romeo pimp who will try to gain the trust of a child before they take them.
Sparks says the number one piece of advice she gives during speeches is telling parents to “Please, parent up.” She says the protection of a child is greater than their privacy. Looking through their phones and computers is reasonable, she says, because traffickers will find ways to contact kids through any means possible including video game chat rooms.
For more information on how to get educated or help the foundation, go here.