SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Human trafficking cases are on the rise in Utah, and the state’s attorney general on Wednesday called for more resources to take on the perpetrators.
“It’s just right now we don’t have ample resources to address all of them,” said AG Sean Reyes following a news conference regarding an illegal adoption scheme.
“I often say, when people say, ‘How many more cases are there out there?,’ you could give me five to 10 more agents and a couple more prosecutors,” he said, “and we would keep them busy. I believe there’s that much human trafficking activity out there.”
Reyes said his office was well-positioned to tackle the cases with its SECURE Strike Force, which was established a decade ago and features law enforcement officers, prosecutors and victim advocates working in the same office.
Andrea Sherman, the Trafficking In Persons program director at the Refugee & Immigrant Center, said her agency is on track to help more human trafficking victims this year than ever before. Last year, case managers helped 104 survivors.
In 2018, 76 Utah human trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which is a 123% increase from the year before. Sherman pointed out that’s a larger jump than the 25% increase nationwide.
“I don’t think human trafficking is a bigger problem in Utah than in any other place,” Reyes said, “but human trafficking itself is a crime that is growing. It’s the fastest-growing international crime.”
The attorney general acknowledged the increase in cases but said it’s unclear whether more are happening or more are simply being reported.
Reyes urged anyone who had even an inkling of a suspicion about a possible human trafficking case to report it to his office or local law enforcement.
Human trafficking covers a wide range of cases from sex and labor exploitation to human organ harvesting.
“We would rather look at 10 of those cases than to miss one that someone didn’t call in because they weren’t sure what it was,” he said.