The Colorado Department of Public Safety kicked off a campaign this week to better address the issue of human trafficking and clear up some popular misconceptions about the crime.
The campaign hopes to increase awareness about the types of human trafficking seen in Colorado and included the launch of the website www.ThisisHumanTrafficking.com. There, people can hear firsthand accounts from victims labor and sex trafficking.
In addition to the website, there’s been a statewide media buy. Anyone who turns on a TV or radio may also hear one of the campaign’s ads. These include depictions of trafficking in sectors such as traveling sales crews, agriculture and hospitality.
In one 15-second spot, a voiceover can heard be saying: “It was supposed to be a traveling sales opportunity and a new family of sorts but I owed for gas, food, places to stay — I was a hostage,” followed by a ‘This Is Human Trafficking’ slogan.
In an interview with statewide media on Tuesday, Colorado Human Trafficking Council Program Manager Maria Trujillo said campaign organizers spent three years conducting research with in-person interviews, group discussion and online surveys with survivors and stakeholders from across the state to better understand how to address the issue and to know what stories to tell
“I think we learned a lot from victim expertise and experience. One of the things that transcends in all these cases is how a vulnerability is manipulated and exploited,” Trujillo said.
Human trafficking can take many forms but all involve exploiting one individual by another for some kind of benefit — often economic.
“We want to elevate the belief that human trafficking can exist in any community,” she said. “One thing we saw in our research is that most individuals knew of the term human trafficking… but didn’t really understand the crime.”
Chairperson of the Colorado Human Trafficking Council Christian Gardner Wood added that a goal of the campaign will be to educate people about what human trafficking is as public understanding of the issue seems to be sensationalized to extreme examples.
The Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force numbers show the number of human trafficking investigations decreased from 2017 to 2018 in the state, though prosecutions increased from 49 to 55 and were accepted by seven different Colorado-based judicial districts.
, according to the Colorado Human Trafficking Council 2019 Annual Report.
“With increased knowledge about how it occurs and what it looks like, the public can play a more active role in combating human trafficking,” Wood said.
Wood added they hope to better educate the public and shift preconceived notions and to expand people’s horizons about what human trafficking can be.
The Colorado Human Trafficking Council operates under the Colorado Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice, Office for Victims Programs and coordinates statewide anti-human trafficking efforts to address trafficking in Colorado. This public awareness campaign comes after legislature aimed to combat human trafficking in the state.
“Until Colorado residents become aware of all aspects of human trafficking, this human injustice will continue,” Trujillo added.