Kristen R. Harris
Woodward, Okla. —
Human trafficking is a growing problem in Oklahoma and local and area residents will have a chance this week to learn more about these criminal activities.
Mike Snowden, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs agent in charge of the human trafficking division, will conduct a seminar on the issue Thursday, Jan. 30 at Woodward High School. The event, which is put on by Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Woodward Public Schools, High Plains Technology Center and the American Association of University Women (AAUW), starts at 6:30 p.m. in the school auditorium.
According to the information provided by Snowden, human trafficking is defined by investigators as: the exploitation by force, fraud, or coercion of vulnerable people for forced labor, domestic servitude or commercial sex operation. Snowden will not only break down what this definition means, he will also untangle any preconceived thoughts on the crime that are misconstrued quite often.
Snowden said it is just as important to educate the public about knowing what human trafficking is, as well as what it isn’t. Every day agents follow up on leads called into their hotline that end up not being related to human trafficking.
Exact numbers on the crime are not available because, 'it is hard to calculate the numbers of the unknown," Snowden said.
Some numbers are available on arrests the narcotics bureau made in 2013.
• 5 individuals were arrested specifically for Human Trafficking.
• 57 Women and 1 man were arrested for engaging in prostitution.
• 26 individuals were arrested for pandering (pimping)
• 39 individuals were arrested for soliciting prostitution These arrests are made as part of a demand reduction effort. As in all economies, the business of prostitution and human trafficking also feeds off of the economics of supply and demand.
• 3 individuals were arrested for drug sales or possession.
• 1 individual was arrested for First Degree Murder.
• 9 adult victims of human trafficking were identified and sent to social service organizations of help.
• 6 juvenile victims of human trafficking were identified and sent to family or DHS.
On Thursday, Snowden will speak to junior high and high school students during the day, discussing the importance of self worth, self esteem, staying in school to get an education and making good decisions, among other important topics.
The evening seminar will include even more information and organizers say some of the information discussed may not be suitable for children.
The goal of Snowden and other agents is not only to keep people safe but also to provide the public with knowledge to create awareness and recognize the signs of human trafficking and to help identify those who may fall victim to human traffickers and their tactics.
For more information on the seminar please contact Dr. Deena Fisher, Dean of the Northwestern-Woodward campus, at (580)-254-2501.
Note: In addition to the Woodward seminar, there will also be a similar seminar and public forum in Buffalo on Tuesday, Jan. 28 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Bureau of Narcotics Director Darrell Weaver will conduct the seminar along with an agent from the human trafficking division. The seminar is set at the Buffalo Community Theater.