Human trafficking is one of those topics that’s not many people like to talk about or even acknowledge that it exists. The fact is, it still happens, even today. In fact, in 2016 alone, the National Human Trafficking Hotline fielded 7,621 cases of reported human trafficking.
One of these cases was the daughter of Maureen and David. The 16-year-old girl had disappeared with a friend January of that year and three weeks later, Maureen and David contacted Saved in America (SIAM). Saved in America is a volunteer group comprised of U.S. Navy Seals, police detectives, and other professionals. Within a week of receiving the report, SIAM had been able to help locate and rescue their daughter from the sex trafficking ring into which she had been sold to.
Saved In America
The San Diego-based group has been a huge success in saving trafficked children and teens. In fact, thanks to their expertise in investigation, surveillance, as well as police collaboration, it has assisted in 57 successful child recoveries over a period of just 36 months according to the SIAM website. It doesn’t stop there though. Once the team has rescued them, they even connect them to treatment and rehabilitation options for the future.
Saved In America was founded by Joseph Travers, a chaplain and private investigator after he heard about the 2009 abduction and death of Brittanee Drexel. In an interview, he said that he knew how street gangs, prison gangs, and cartels took over drug trafficking in the 1980s, and then at the turn of the century, they also took over sex trafficking. After reading about Brittanee Drexel, who was nowhere to be found, Travers knew that gangs were involved somehow.
Since he founded SIAM, Travers has met with many parents just like Maureen and David. Having a missing child out there means they are often panicking and frustrated with the pace that law enforcement are conducting their investigations. They’re extremely anxious and are just waiting for something to happen, for someone to do something, anything to help their child or even children. That means they usually have to do something about it themselves and since most people wouldn’t have the first clue as where to start, that’s where SIAM comes in.
Filling The Gap
Due to the issue of human trafficking being so large, SIAM plays an extremely important role. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 20 percent of reported runaway kids are sex trafficking victims. However, it also says that law enforcement is responsible for so much, not just human trafficking and are therefore constantly over-extended. Furthermore, there’s no legal obligation to perform due diligence to find a runaway child. That’s where SIAM comes in.
It’s not just the families of the victims who are grateful for the help. Judging by the testimonials on the SIAM website, law enforcement officials are also very thankful for the service these groups provide. Mike Williams, a sheriff from Duval County, Fla, wrote:
“It is partnerships such as this that play a significant role in law enforcement today, not only from a public safety standpoint but also as an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who have been victimized.”
The good reports keep on coming. San Diego County Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan says organizations such as SIAM can be very helpful because victims often don’t trust the police. He went on to say that while a private investigator or a group doesn’t have any police powers, they are fine so as long as they abide by their ethical duties of staying in their lane and operating and providing information to police. If they do that, they are welcomed.