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Spotting Human Trafficking in Iowa

May 28, 2009

Des Moines, IA – There have only been two cases of human trafficking prosecuted in Iowa since tough state laws were enacted in 2006, perhaps because it's a crime so difficult to spot that even those in law enforcement can miss it.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa offers training classes for people who may come into contact with victims of human trafficking. The classes are taught by Susie Cook, a member of the Network Against Human Trafficking, who says there are some 'red flags' to watch for that may indicate a problem.

"If you see your neighbor has a person living in their home who never comes out of the home, never speaks to anyone, never leaves; maybe dresses a little more shabbily than the owners of the house."

The victims are often shuffled from place to place, Cook explains, and they live in constant fear.

"The people who are in charge kind-of 'break in' their victims by telling them that if they go to the police, the police are going to prosecute them and persecute them. And, if they are undocumented people, then they'll send them back to their home countries."

Cook says the training sessions are customized to teach people in such professions as healthcare, social work and law enforcement, about what to look for and what kinds of questions to ask. If professionals are aware of human trafficking, she says, it's much more likely to be prevented.

For information about the next training session, visit

Dick Layman, Public News Service - IA