St. Louis, MO – The campaign is part of a national strategy to draw attention to the estimated 15,000 to 18,000 people who are trafficked into the U.S. each year for forced labor and commercial sex.
Steve Wagner directs the human trafficking program for the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.
"Cases of trafficking have been exposed by neighbors who noticed that there is a person living in the house next door that just never came outside and the curtains were drawn," Wagner says. "Odd behaviors like that might merit a call to authorities."
Richard Renken - a former victim who was trafficked in from Zambia - advises other victims to take the risk of calling for help:
There's a better future beyond them once they get rescued," Renken says. "Also, just be able to trust; because trusting is the biggest thing...being abused for so long.
Starting June 16, the coalition will begin a training program to teach St. Louis area residents how to identify and assist in the rescue of trafficked persons.
HHS has established a national hotline to report suspected human trafficking.
That number is 1-888-3737-888.