The Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office joins the rest of the state and nation in marking January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month. This is specially meaningful in Louisiana, where in 2015 there were more than 100 child sex trafficking victims identified, the youngest a 6-year-old child, and in Caddo-Bossier, where that same year the FBI recovered 13 child sex trafficking victims.

“As part of Human Trafficking Prevention Month we are launching a social media campaign,” says Caddo Parish Assistant District Attorney Holly McGinness, who has prosecuted numerous human trafficking cases.

The social media campaign will feature community members posting pictures with signs conveying a range of anti-trafficking memes, saying “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls,” “Real Men Don’t Buy Boys” and “Real Men Don’t Buy Sex.”

“The purpose of the awareness and prevention campaign is to shed light on the realities of sex trafficking in our community,” McGinness said. “Many residents do not realize human trafficking is happening right here in Caddo/Bossier. Our goal is to educate on how to recognize the red flags and how to report to authorities so that we can connect victims to safety, resources, and healing.”

The Caddo DA’s office has partnered with the FREE Coalition, the Community Response Team and other law enforcement and social service providers working on the front lines to identify victims, to empower survivors and to prosecute traffickers.

“In order to amplify this work and disrupt traffickers’ ability to do business in Caddo/Bossier, we as a community must be informed and active,” McGinness said. “It is imperative that we educate our community and widen our safety net. The FREE Coalition has provided training for over 4,000 individuals here locally and our goal for 2017 is to train even more community members, service providers, teachers and law enforcement officers.”

Thursday, January 5, 2017, the Caddo Parish Commission passed a resolution that addressed the issue.

“Today, millions of men, women and children are victims of human trafficking,” the resolution stated in part. “These victims face cruelty that has no place in a civilized world. It is a crime that takes many forms and one that tears at the social fabric, debases our common humanity and violates what we stand for as a country and as a people.

“We stand together with survivors, advocates and organizations dedicated to building a parish, state and country where our people and children are not for sale.”

The Caddo Commission also recognized the efforts of the Community Response Team, a local coalition of more than 30 law enforcement agencies, juvenile service and non-profit organizations united against trafficking. Among the community response team is the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office, Caddo Juvenile Court, the Office of Juvenile Justice, Volunteers for Youth Justice, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s office, the Shreveport and Bossier City police departments, The Gingerbread House, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, Project Celebration, the Center for Families and Purchased. Since its inception in 2014, the Community Response Team has staffed more than 30 cases of confirmed human trafficking victims or those who are considered high risk for human trafficking.

Events in January that merit advance notice and coverage include:

Friday, January 13, 2017: A Shreveport-Bossier City Proclamation event will team Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler and Bossier City Mayor Lorenz “Lo” Walker to acknowledge the prevalence of human trafficking in our communities and to boost unified efforts towards prevention. This will be at 11 a.m. on the front steps of Caddo Parish Juvenile Court, 1835 Spring St., in Shreveport.

Friday, January 27, 2017: Training on “Recognizing the Signs of Sex Trafficking” will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the YWCA of Northwest Louisiana, 850 Olive St., Suite B, Shreveport. Participants will learn more about how to recognize the signs of trafficking and report to the appropriate authorities. A panel of experts will outline the red flags and recruitment process of trafficking, detail local anti-trafficking work and address an often-asked question, “Why Don’t They Just Leave?” To take part, RSVP to (318) 550-4417.

For more information call the YWCA of Northwest Louisiana at (318) 550-4417 or call Holly McGinness at (318) 226-6829, ext. 1009.