Law enforcement agencies and non-profits across Vermont are working together to reduce human trafficking they said often has its roots in drug addiction.
Monday, the U.S. Attorney for Vermont, Eric Miller, launched an education campaign called "U Can Stop Traffick." It features public service announcements that'll air on TV stations, as well as a website that includes victims' stories.
Police, prosecutors, social service providers, and victim's advocates who gathered for the kickoff said with the region's heroin addiction addiction crisis, they're seeing more cases of women and vulnerable people being forced into the sex trade or victimized in other ways, because they're desperate to please drug dealers to feed their addictions.
"Acknowledging and identifying the problem is the first step to solving it," said Heather Ross of the Vermont Human Trafficking Task Force. "Together, we can prevent traffickers from preying on the most vulnerable in our community, whether it is those addicted to drugs, runaway and homeless youth, and others."
The campaign website, ucanstoptraffick.org, connects human trafficking victims and other people who need help with resources from a host of agencies.
"We in law enforcement are working closely with our non-profit partners and elected leaders to undermine the foundations of drug dealing and help victims escape traffickers," U.S. Attorney Miller said in launching the campaign. "This public service announcement will raise awareness of the dangerous intersection of drug and sex trafficking in Vermont and connect affected individuals with the help and resources they need."
Miller said drug traffickers do not work alone, and often use and abuse people in communities to assist in their illicit businesses, often using coercion.
"Once again Vermont is leading the way to find thoughtful, effective solutions to problems that erode our communities," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said in a written statement. "Drug trafficking and human trafficking are terrible crimes. They destroy lives, devastate families and weaken communities. To fight back effectively, we must coordinate our efforts, and I am proud to see the collaboration among such dedicated partners."