DougCo DA commits to aggressive prosecution to fight human trafficking

Heather Willard

Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / Jan. 11, 2023

(Douglas County, Colo.) Modern-day slavery occurs across the U.S., and Douglas County isn’t immune. Human trafficking is a wide-ranging illicit industry, which can be hard to identify and is often stereotyped.

During January, many law enforcement and action groups mark Human Trafficking Awareness & Prevention Month, with Jan. 11 designated as Human Trafficking Awareness Day. The goal is to show the wide range of ways modern slavery slips under the radar.

The 18th District Attorney’s Office is among those marking the month, with prosecutors appearing before the Aurora City Council to raise awareness of human trafficking and committing to seeking “lengthy prison sentences for traffickers.”

Many elected officials such as Gov. Jared Polis have posted online to inform residents they can anonymously report anything they experienced that doesn’t seem right through a 24/7 hotline at 866-455-5075. Colorado residents can also text the hotline at 720-999-9724.

“The state of Colorado is creating a culture that does not tolerate human trafficking,” Polis tweeted.

A study conducted by the Polaris Project found there are 25 types of human trafficking cases, ranging from sexual exploitation in escort services and illicit massage or beauty parlors to labor trafficking in landscaping, carnivals and factories.

Often, the best way to find human trafficking victims is by identifying vulnerable populations: people with unstable living situations, runaways or undocumented immigrants, impoverished populations and those close to an addict or are a drug addict themselves are among targeted groups, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Deputy District Attorney Jacob Kremin, a member of the 18th District Attorney’s Office Human Trafficking team, noted human trafficking produces billions of dollars every year in the U.S.

“Acknowledging the existence of trafficking, and learning to spot the warning signs of exploitative situations are the best ways that we can start to combat this problem together,” Kremin said.

“The average age of entry into a life of human trafficking is just 13 years of age, and the average life expectancy after entering the life is merely 7 years. Traffickers will often try to control as many aspects of their victims’ lives as possible, including housing, food, clothing, communication, and transportation.

“It is up to all of us to be on the lookout for these types of coercive situations and report them to law enforcement so that a proper investigation can be conducted. Our office has a proven track record of seeking stiff prison sentences for traffickers, and we’ll continue to aggressively prosecute anyone who engages in this criminal enterprise.”

In August, the FBI Denver’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force participated in Operation Cross Country, a national initiative to identify and locate child victims of sex trafficking.

The FBI Denver task force worked with over 40 Front Range agencies, including the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Arapahoe County’s Department of Human Services and Sheriff’s Office, the Castle Rock Police Department, and the Lone Tree and Parker police departments. The permanent task force includes members of the Denver Police Department, Arapahoe and Douglas county sheriff’s offices, the Colorado State Patrol, and the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

During the 2022 operation, Colorado law enforcement recovered 11 juvenile victims of sexual exploitation, 27 missing or endangered children, and 11 adult victims. Six traffickers were identified and two were arrested on unrelated felony warrants.

The Denver Field Office located more victims than any other field office in the country during the two week operation in August.

Since the Denver Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force was created in 2012, approximately 700 minors have been recovered. The task force receives between 40-50 tips every month from sources like state and national hotlines and community partnerships.

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Public safety reporter in DougCo, Denver metro. Previously: Pueblo Chieftain public safety reporter, Athens Messenger associate editor. Caffeine fiend, cat mom and lover of all things spooky.

Broomfield, CO

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