“Even when they’re angry and even when they’re yelling at you, you know their eyes are saying, 'Please help me,'” an undercover FBI special agent said.
It’s that look from child trafficking victims that keeps this undercover FBI special agent coming back to the job every day in Connecticut to catch and convict human traffickers.
“You see along the I-95 corridor, they are going to want to go where it’s easily accessible, so a quick on and off the highway to a hotel. A buyer isn’t going to want to draw a lot of attention to themselves,” the FBI special agent said.
Those buyers are looking to buy sex from minors.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
“We have been told that Connecticut is viewed as having old wealth, that there’s a lot of money in Connecticut, which to a trafficker’s mind translates to a lot of buyers,” the FBI special agent said.
According to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF), out of the 241 victims of child trafficking in 2021, 86% were female and 67% lived with a parent or guardian.
The trafficking mostly includes sex trafficking, which involves force, fraud and coercion. DCF officials said an uptick in apps have created more access for traffickers to find victims.
“Most of the time, people won’t act because they feel like they can’t succeed, they can’t get out of it,” said Jennifer Abbott, who is a survivor of sex trafficking and victim advocate.
Abbott said the signs of child trafficking are there, if you just look for them.
“The reality is that it’s everywhere and it has many different forms it has many different masks, it doesn’t necessarily need to be someone being held against their will,” Abbott said.
DCF said some red flags to look for in children are multiple cell phones, new hair styles, manicures or tattoos.
Abbott said judgement is often a barrier for victims for victims trying to escape, but she wants them to know there are resources out there.
“You’re strong enough, you’re worthy, just give yourself a chance,” Abbott said.
The federal agent wants you to know these vulnerable victims are in our state and we should all be looking for them.
“It really is going on everywhere, it is going on all the time, it’s just very easily accessible, victims are very easily acceptable for those that are willing to pay,” the FBI special agent said.
If you or someone you know is a victim of trafficking, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.