Human trafficking attempts now more visible in Portland

Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 10:20 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) – Human trafficking is a crime that many people think happens most at night or in secret, however, in recent months, the Portland Police Bureau’s Human Trafficking Unit said the crime is becoming more visible and traffickers are acting more boldly and out in the open.

“We definitely feel like it’s becoming more visible, human-trafficking like activities, you’ll see street-walking, prostitution related crimes definitely along northeast 82nd, along northeast Sandy,” Sergeant Kristi Butcher said. Butcher said it’s happening all over the city.

“We get reports at Jantzen Beach hotels, the hotels and motels along MLK Boulevard, interstate, so there’s really no areas that are left unimpacted,” she said. Butcher said that often times traffickers will try to recruit victims in broad daylight and in crowded places like stores and shopping malls. She said it does happen online but right now more of it is happening in person.

Butcher explained that traffickers are smooth talkers and the first interaction with someone can feel normal or seem harmless.

“It’s really hard to decipher like hey is this a person that is interested in you know dating me or is someone who wants to establish some sort of new relationship or is this someone wanting to cause me harm?” she said. Butcher also said traffickers will often promise to take victims on expensive trips or even offer those in vulnerable situations a place to stay, and both are big warning signs.

“They’re very good at talking and selling these things and once they kind of get you hooked so to speak, that’s when they break it like hey I don’t have enough money to go on that trip we talked about I need you to go out and work, which means sell your body,” she said. The goal of a trafficker is to isolate their victim so they feel like they have no one to go to for help.

“Trust your instincts and if it seems to good to be true, ask a lot of questions, maybe get someone else involved, I’m a big proponent of not being in places alone,” Butcher said.

If you suspect human trafficking or are a victim you can email or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888. You can also text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733.