Investigator: Human trafficking not seen locally

Sep. 27—Human trafficking is a hidden crime that's being brought to light through social media and advocates.

According to human trafficking documents by the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women, there are three types of human trafficking; sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and domestic servitude.

Sex trafficking is when force or coercion are used to engage a person in commercial sex acts or labor. Labor trafficking is the most prevalent type of human trafficking and is defined as recruitment, harboring, or obtaining people for labor using force or coercion.

"Domestic Servitude pertains to the economic sectors that profit most from human trafficking from agriculture, restaurants, manufacturing, domestic work, entertainment, hospitality, and the commercial sex industry," stated the OCSW documents.

Law enforcement agencies across the state are focusing on human trafficking and training on how to spot it.

Sgt. Ryan Robison, sexual assault and child abuse investigator for the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, said human trafficking is not something he's dealt with locally.

"What I've seen most around here is self-produced child sexual abuse material, which is child pornography. Either the child sends it out 'willingly' or they're getting paid for it, that's what I see most," Robison said.

Robison serves on the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. He said incidents wherein a minor goes missing after 'meeting up' with an adult can be considered child trafficking.

"That's definitely a part of child sex trafficking depending on their age. The best bet for parents right now is to not allow their children to have uninhibited access of social media and be mindful of what they're doing online and monitor them," he said.

Videos posted to TikTok and Facebook show women coming out to their vehicles to find a zip tie or some type of string attached to their door handle. One video goes on to explain how a woman can be attacked while she's distracted trying to remove the zip tie from her vehicle.

"I have heard of that just through social media. Of what I've seen as the woman would try to untie the zip tie or whatever and then they would be attacked from behind. I've not seen it personally and I have not heard any reports around here like that," Robison said.

Law enforcement officials in Arizona, Louisiana, Texas, and Michigan dispelled the claim, saying sex traffickers use different tactics and it's rare for them to prey on a stranger.

"If you feel that something suspicious is happening with your vehicle, if you're not comfortable getting into your vehicle, go back into the house or the store or where you think you're going to be safe and call 911," Robison said.

Another incident gaining views on social media are woman who are filming while they're being followed in retail stores. In some instances, the woman will hold up her phone and bring attention to the situation while yelling at the man. In other times, the woman will get help from an employee and give her advise to others who may experience the same situation.

"If they're feeling uncomfortable, they're obviously going to follow their gut instinct but if they feel like they're being followed they can call 911," Robison said. "I would not advise filming them, bringing attention to them because you don't know how someone is going to react. They can act out in a violent manner or they can run away. It's a 50/50 chance on how the person is going to react."

In August, officials with the Yukon Police Department were searching for man who allegedly followed women and children around in a store while fondling himself. Video footage showed the man follow a woman around for 10 minutes.

There are several Rape Aggression Defense programs for women, men, and seniors. The free programs focus on basic self-defense tactics and maneuvers.

The RAD programs can be set up by calling the Tahlequah Police Department at 918-456-8801.