New billboard targets human traffickers
A new billboard drawing motorists' attention to the crime of human trafficking was erected Sept. 18 on Interstate 35 near the Scanlon exit.
Kelly Haffield, sex trafficking investigator with the Fond Du Lac Tribal Police Department, is spearheading a campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking in the area. She said the purpose of the sign is to discourage traffickers.
"If you're going to dabble in this type of business, we won't tolerate it," she said.
Haffield's department received a grant for the campaign, but the Carlton County Sheriff's Office, Carlton County Attorney's Office and Cloquet Police Department have also partnered with the FDLTPD for the sign.
She plans to erect a new billboard in January for Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
"I'm prepared to use what funding I have available to me to keep the campaign going," she said.
Haffield is also commander of Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking. Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and several other tribal nations are actively involved in TRUST: Mille Lacs, White Earth, Red Lake, Leech Lake, Lower Sioux, Upper Sioux, Boise Forte and Grand Portage (Cook County Sheriff's Office).
Haffield is working to also bring the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux and Prairie Island Indian Community on board with TRUST.
"Human trafficking" includes sex trafficking, forced labor and domestic servitude. Any person under age 18 involved in a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, "Sex trafficking victims may be forced, threatened or manipulated by promises of love or affection to engage in sex acts for money.
"Victims of human trafficking are of all genders, ages, races, countries, socioeconomic statuses and so on," the center reports. "While human trafficking can happen to anyone, people who are already in vulnerable situations, such as people experiencing homelessness, may be more likely to be targeted."