BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A one-of-a-kind training program being implemented by the Baltimore City Fire Department to help spot human trafficking.
“Human trafficking for all practical purposes is the most recent form of slavery,” said Chief Niles Ford, Baltimore City Fire Departmet.READ MORE: Maryland Weather: Mild Saturday, With Temps Dropping Sunday
It’s a crime often described as “hidden in plain sight” because victims may appear “normal” and even interact with the community.
“They don’t recognize often that this is not the way it is for everyone else. That’s just the way it is,” Lt. Colleen Lull, BCFD.
The Department of Justice defines human trafficking as “exploiting a person for labor, services or commercial sex.”
“It’s a despicable act and it’s amazing and saddening what human beings can do to human beings,” said Chief Ford.
It’s something that can happen to anyone, anywhere, or anytime.READ MORE: Health Officials Urge Vaccination & Boosters As COVID-19 Rate Rises, Omicron Arrives In Maryland
“Baltimore is one of the biggest hotspots because of location,” said Chief Ford. “Major interstates running through it.. we also have certain socio-economic issues.”
“It could be happening right under your nose and the biggest thing is that if you don’t know the signs, you would look right past it,” said Lt. Lull.
That’s why the Baltimore City Fire Department has a one-of-a-kind training program in the region for staff to properly identify trafficking as they respond to calls.
“How it differentiates itself from prostitution in the strictest of senses and we also differentiate human traffic versus smuggling,” Lt. Lull.
The training dives into key signals and indicators to look out for.
“People who are accompanied by other people who can’t speak for themselves, we’re looking for patients who don’t have their documentation. people who cannot make eye contact with us,” Lt. Lull said.MORE NEWS: Maryland Has Three Confirmed Cases Of The Omicron Variant Of COVID-19, Hogan Says
Program leader Lieutenant Colleen Lull said the department has referred one possible human trafficking case a month since last October and hopes for that number to grow as awareness in the community also expands.