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Arkansas groups collaborating to eliminate human trafficking



Jonesboro, Arkansas – A crime that goes unpunished, human trafficking affects thousands of people in the country and Region 8.

Organizations all around the state of Arkansas are contributing to the growing momentum of the fight against human trafficking.

Sergeant Matt Foster of the Arkansas State Police leads the Arkansas Human Trafficking Council, which is in the lead.

Together, governmental agencies and neighborhood nonprofits form the council to carry out anti-human trafficking initiatives. Their objectives are to help victims and spread awareness.

“You know, if not us then who?” said Foster. “I believe, after three operations we identified there’s a problem and now it’s starting to find those solutions.”

Foster wants everyone to realize how important every community is to the statewide effort to combat human trafficking. Foster has been leading the charge in this regard.

“In Hot Springs, Jonesboro, we pick out a hotel; a hotel owner will help us with the rooms for the operation,” he explained. “Garland County has a human trafficking task force. That task force was able to provide us with food and drinks for our law enforcement operation that night. So, whenever we have our briefing, we’re all fed. In Jonesboro, we had a local church donate the food to us. I’m so thankful for all the community involvement and all the troopers and all the victim services that travel into these communities.”

The battle isn’t ended, even if they have already carried out a few missions.

Daily efforts are still being made locally to increase public understanding of who can become a victim of human trafficking and how it can occur by groups such as Hope Found of Northeast Arkansas and its director, Megan Brown.

“Traffickers are looking for those with noticeable vulnerabilities, so they prey on vulnerable populations,” said Megan Brown. “That means our kids, that means people that are homeless, that are addicted to drugs, that are in some kind of state of desperation, and they need help. And here comes a trafficker trying to exploit that vulnerability.”

It can be challenging to identify someone in one of these circumstances due to the necessity to raise awareness.

Brown stressed that a large number of victims of human trafficking are not always imprisoned and chained.

“It does happen, but it’s all about the mental chains that they’re enduring,” she said.

Sergeant Foster advises you to gather more information about a person’s circumstances and to ask questions if you see anything unusual about them. He also exhorts reporting any questionable activity.

“Reporting is the most important thing, in what the public can do,” Foster said. “So we can respond to that incident and might be able to save someone’s life, might be able to save a child’s life. Understand, human trafficking is here. It’s in Arkansas.”

Brown and Sergeant Foster both urge people to keep in mind that human trafficking occurs frequently in both big cities and rural locations. They both want people to get together and restore victims’ voices.

“It’s all about choice, giving this individual a choice for the first time in a long time,” Foster said. “It’s just a powerful thing to see everybody, arms working for one goal.”

For additional details regarding signs and how to report suspected cases of human trafficking, see to the websites of the NEA’s Hope Found and the Arkansas Department of Public Safety.





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