DAVENPORT, Iowa — For Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Attacking Trafficking on Sunday, Jan. 23 held its annual prayer service to end human trafficking.
The interfaith group, formed in 2010, works to provide education and awareness and advocate with legislation to end human trafficking, specifically in Iowa.
"It's just an insidious crime, and it's so easy to be under somebody's nose not to know that it's there," President Ann Mohr said. "The more people that we can train to see what the signs are, the more people that we can create awareness with the better."
Human trafficking impacts 24.9 million people around the world, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 285 calls about human trafficking cases and issues related to human trafficking in Iowa in 2020. That made up 0.5% of its calls nationwide for the year.
Retired Davenport police officer Hank Jacobsen spoke during the service and said there have been cases of human trafficking here in the Quad Cities.
"You have Interstate 80 that's going to be a cut through the U.S.," Jacobsen said. "We have seen some cases here locally, and we've dealt with some individuals that have been trafficked, and we've gotten back home. But it's just something that everybody needs to be aware about, and if they do see something just to report it."
He added that it most commonly starts on social media, and he answered questions from the group about how to recognize some of the signs of human trafficking.
"What are kids doing online? Who are they communicating with?" he said. "Is their attitude changing on a regular basis? Are they depressed a little bit, maybe missing school, hanging out with older people could be a sign. There's a lot of different things that you can look for, but just because you have one or two things doesn't mean that they're always going to be involved in trafficking."
But, Jacobsen said if you have a gut feeling that something's wrong, you should report it to local law enforcement or the national hotline. The hotline can be reached by phone at 888-373-7888 or by text at 233733.
Attacking Trafficking is also working to change state law in Iowa. It wants to create a safe harbor law.
Currently in Iowa code, Mohr said that a minor who is a survivor of trafficking can be charged with prostitution or crimes associated in the act of being trafficked. It's up to each county if it wants to enact the charge, she added.
"So what we want to do is change that so that these young victims would be able to get the help that they needed sooner," Mohr said. "It's not something that you've done, it's not your fault."
Attacking Trafficking is holding a volunteer training and informational meeting for group members and for those who would like to get involved on Tuesday, Feb. 22 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. It will be held at St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Davenport, 3510 W. Central Park Ave.