Community Issues

Retired Navy SEALS Save Kids From Human Trafficking

When they saw how quickly children were disappearing and becoming victims of human trafficking, they stepped up to help.

Human trafficking is on the rise, and many of the victims are just kids. This is the story of a group of men who said enough is enough.

The Polaris Project says there were 10,949 cases of human trafficking opened in the U.S. in 2018, a 25% increase from 2017. While the victims of these cases range in age, over half of them involve children.

Saved In America (SIAM) has made it their mission to find child victims of human trafficking. The group is made up of a team of volunteers that includes retired Navy SEALS, police officers and private investigators who work tirelessly to locate missing, runaway and exploited children (mostly girls) groups that are most vulnerable to sexual trafficking.

SIAM co-founder Joseph Travers speaks about the work his organization is doing at Florida Association of Licensed Investigators in Tampa, FL.

Because law enforcement can only do so much, the children in such cases are often treated as runaways due to the lack of time and resources that most police forces have at their disposal. Technically, police are not legally required to perform due diligence to find a runaway child, and many cases are dismissed without a thorough investigation. That's where SIAM steps in.

"It is partnerships such as this that play a significant role in law enforcement today, not only from a public safety standpoint, but also as an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who have been victimized," Mike Williams, a Sheriff from Duval County, FL, shared in a letter to SIAM's co-founder, Joseph Travers.

Members of SIAM use a large RV as their mobile command center where they gather to research their cases. They often speak at length with the missing child's parents to find out more about her, and they build a profile from there. They also use social media to help find leads, however the officers are quick to note that Facebook and other platforms are used as recruiting tools by potential traffickers.

"Without it ... I will have a hard time finding them, but with it, it also helps contribute to the problem," former Tech Ops officer Frank Bonniwell told KVVU-TV .

SIAM averages a total of 5 rescues per month, with over 233 recoveries made since December 2014. The organization offers their services to families free of charge and they rely 100% on donations to fund their operations. The team travels all over the country (they even solved a case in Mexico!) to help find victims of trafficking.

"People don't realize this is going on in their own backyards. This isn't in some far away country with very poor people," Travers told PEOPLE . "This could be your next-door neighbor, your child, anyone's child. A lot of these kids are from a middle-class family in the United States. They aren't incredibly poor or involved in abuse or bad situations [at home]."

You can make a donation to Saved In America via PayPal .

If you know of a child that may be involved in human trafficking or have any other information that might potentially help a case, you can call the tip hotline: (760) 348-8808.

(Source: images Saved In America Facebook )

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