Guardian Group using military experience to fight human traffick - KPTV - FOX 12

Guardian Group using military experience to fight human trafficking

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Officers from every corner of the state gathered earlier this month at the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training building in Salem.

The group learned how to combat human trafficking in Oregon from some of the best in the field.

A lot of the men and women in the room work undercover to rescue the state's most vulnerable children and to catch traffickers, so FOX 12 is protecting their identity.

The in-house tactical training was led by members of the Guardian Group, who brought in guest speakers from across the region.

"The Guardian Group is a team of teams, so we've got professionals from law enforcement and specialized units in the military that come a long way to train and assist as we can," Founder and CEO Jeff Keith said.

The Guardian Group is dedicated to stopping predators who make their way into the state. A group of retired officers and veterans, they are utilizing their elite military background to combat human trafficking in Oregon.  

Keith said he formed the Guardian Group after he wound up rescuing a group of young girls himself.

 "I was a pastor before, and I was taking teams of people to India," he explained. "We were in the red light district and we had the opportunity to rescue 12 girls. You could not be part of that and walk away from that unchanged." 

Keith says the Guardian Group is growing every day. In fact, so much so they've developed a nationwide network of task forces that work together to share information and tactics to catch human traffickers.  

They recently partnered up with the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association to teach hotel staff in the state how to identify, report and respond to suspected trafficking incidents.

"If every employee in the hotel industry is trained to see and respond in the way that's right for them, then that's when you start seeing a shift in this problem," Keith said.

Keith tells FOX 12 it's hard to fully understand the scope of the problem in Oregon, because the numbers change every day, though together this group is working tirelessly to put a stop to it.

"Victims, they're all around us, on the street, in hotels in restaurants," he said. "We have to start entering into the ugliness of this crime, so that if we see something we aren't afraid to say something."

For more information on the Guardian Group, visit TheGuardianGroup.org.

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