Panel members: Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo, Bellingham Police Dept. Sergeant Jay Hart, Bellingham Police Dept. Detective Chris Johnston, Lynden Police Chief John Billester
The October 16th, 2018 Hope4Justice meeting which featured a panel of Whatcom County law enforcement personnel, was enlightening. Each officer talked about a different angle of trafficking and added their perspective about the issue. Their overview stated:
Trafficking is definitely happening in Whatcom County though it's a fairly invisible crime. Additionally, many victims can't or won't report it.
Whatcom County is a model example of inter-agency cooperation. County, city, state, and federal law enforcement officials work closely with each other on investigations, interviews, stings, and other activities. (Agencies include city police departments, county sheriff's dept., Lummi police, Homeland Security, Border Patrol, Seattle police, Washington State Patrol, FBI, and even Canadian authorities.)
Law enforcement also work closely with community agencies such as DVSAS, Bridgid Collins House, and schools.
Panel members shared examples about individual cases as well as "demand" reduction stings. This included a 2017 sting which resulted in 21 arrests for soliciting children for sex. A large number of “johns” from all walks of life had responded to the offer
Officers noted that the general public can help fight trafficking! Citizens were encouraged to do the following:
Report suspicious activity by calling 911! Don't wait until a day or two later. You're not bothering them. Call ASAP!
Bring awareness to the issue. Share what you know with others (one on one, in small groups, on social media, and elsewhere).
Get involved with young people and be someone they can turn to and trust. If they have a caring adult in their life there's less chance they'll be lured into trafficking.
Support organizations like Engedi Refuge Ministries that provide rescue and restoration services to trafficked victims or ministries that provide support to the homeless and hopeless.
Much more was discussed and I came away with increased appreciation and admiration for the hard work and dedication of law enforcement to this issue (and the many others they deal with). They approach horrendous situations with professionalism as they care for victims and apprehend perpetrators.
Hope4Justice sincerely appreciates the time taken by Sheriff Elfo, Sargeant Hart, Detective Johnston, and Chief Billester to inform us about trafficking in Whatcom County. Please continue to pray for them as they do this challenging work.
SAHWant to learn more about the face of modern-day slavery? Visit http://www.hope4justice.org/the-facts/
Food for thought: Check out this article entitled, "FACT: Buying sex makes men more prone to violence against women" fromNordic Model Now!
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