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3 Accused Of Trafficking Teens At Orlando Hotels; Police Believe There May Be More Victims

March 18, 2022

ORLANDO, Fla. – Police with the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation announced on Wednesday the arrests of two women and a man who are accused of trafficking at least three teens for sex acts at several hotels in Orlando.

Officers arrested Tracy Koger, 34, and Tyrell San Juan Ponds, 46, in January and both are locked up in Orange County. Shana Marie Lee Bryant, 36, was arrested in December 2021 in Seminole County.

“They would offer (the victims) places to stay — offered to take care of them,” Ron Stucker, director of the MBI said during a news conference Wednesday. “Of course, once they had control over them, then what would happen is they would begin to exploit them and manipulate them.”

The investigation into the trio began in July 2021 when a 15-year-old runaway turned up at Dr. Phillips Hospital saying she had been battered, according to a news release. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office turned the case over to the MBI when it was revealed she was a victim of human trafficking.

Read the full story by Thomas Mates on Click Orlando.

Using Online Ads To Spot Human Trafficking

May 26, 2021

A majority of the victims are advertised online and have no input into the wording used in the advertisements posted for them by their pimp, who usually controls over 4 to 6 victims, says Reihaneh Rabbany, Assistant Professor at McGill’s School of Computer Science and Canada CIFAR AI chair. This leads to similar phrasing and duplication among listings which can be used to detect organized activity.

The proposed algorithm, called InfoShield, can put millions of advertisements together and highlight the common parts,” adds Christos Faloutsos, Fredkin Professor at CMU’s School of Computer Science, and the CMU project lead. “If the ad have a lot of things in common, it’s not guaranteed, but it’s highly likely that it is something suspicious.” This algorithm could help law enforcement direct their investigations and better identify human traffickers and their victims.

According to the International Labor Organization, an estimated 24.9 million people are trapped in forced labor. Of those, 55% are women and girls trafficked in the commercial sex industry. In the past decade, human trafficking cases have been on the rise in Canada and in response to that the Canadian government (in collaboration with RCMP) has launched a “National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking 2019-2024”, with one of the focus areas being the need for technological advancements and research. The Infoshield algorithm is taking a step in this direction.

“Human trafficking is a dangerous societal problem which is difficult to tackle,” explains lead authors Catalina Vajiac and Meng-Chieh Lee. “By looking for small clusters of ads that contain similar phrasing rather than analyzing standalone ads, we’re finding the groups of ads that are most likely to be organized activity, which is a strong signal of (human trafficking).”

Read the full story on Mirage News.

How Some Researchers Are Using Data Science To Fight Sex Trafficking

July 12, 2020

When Riana H. was 15 years old, she ran away from home. This was not a one-time incident for the willful teenager, who developed a habit of disappearing after her family moved from Austin, Tex., to California in 2010. Whenever Riana clashed with her mother over her restrictive house rules or curfew, she would take off for a few hours to hide out with her new friends.

It was not unusual, then, when Riana decided to run away one night after getting into another argument with her mother for missing curfew. This time, however, she reached out for help from the wrong person—an older man (we will call him J.) who had given her his phone number earlier that day. Though Riana was suspicious of J.’s interest in her, she felt she had run out of options: “It was cold and nighttime. I had nowhere else to go, so I ended up calling the number.”

J. offered to put Riana up in a hotel room for the night. On the way, he gave her a drug that made her feel lightheaded and woozy. Riana remembers the room being occupied by another teenage girl, who started taking pictures of her.

“It kind of felt like a dream. It was my first time doing drugs, so I was kind of out of it. I didn’t know what was going on,” Riana told me over the phone.

The next morning she woke up, disoriented, to J. knocking on her hotel room door. At first, he downplayed what had happened the previous night, refusing to answer any of Riana’s or the other girl’s questions about their current situation or their hazy memories of their encounters with J. It was not until a week and a half later that his intentions with the photographs were made clear: J. was a sex trafficker, and Riana was his next victim.

Human trafficking remains a vast yet largely hidden criminal industry that generated an estimated $32 billion annually in 2012; and sex trafficking, in particular, exploits roughly four million people around the world. Hearing people like Riana recount her own experiences as a sex-trafficking survivor in her sometimes shaky yet persistent voice can help many put a face to these numbers and ask hard questions: What will it take to end human trafficking? And how should people of faith respond to this injustice?

To read the full article by Isabelle Senchal on America Magazine: Click Here

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February 18, 2020

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February 18, 2020

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February 18, 2020

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February 18, 2020

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National Migration Week 2020

December 30, 2019

Photo by: Lisa Kristine

For nearly a half century, the Catholic Church in the United States has celebrated National Migration Week. It is an opportunity for the Catholic community to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children, and victims and survivors of human trafficking. The theme for National Migration Week 2020, “Promoting a Church and a World for All,” draws attention to the fact that each of our families has a migration story, some recent and others in the distant past. Regardless of where we are and where we came from, we remain part of the human family and are called to live in solidarity with one another.

National Migration Week 2020 will be celebrated January 5-11, 2020 in the U.S.  It is a call to stand in solidarity with and care for those who are excluded and marginalized, including migrants, DACA and TPS holders, refugees, and those seeking asylum. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has produced a toolkit of resources to promote participation in National Migration Week – download it for free here. You’ll find suggestions for prayer, community action ideas, sample letters to the editor and social media posts.

US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking also has some resources that directly connect the issues of migration and human trafficking. We encourage you to download and share the following resources as well:

We urge members of USCSAHT to use the National Migration Week kit and our additional resources with their local communities to raise awareness about the root causes of forced migration, their connection to human trafficking and act on God’s call to each of us to welcome the newcomer and promote a church for all. Our efforts can counter what Pope Francis has referred to as “a globalization of indifference,” which has led to many of us to ignore the cries of the poor, turn our backs on the marginalized, and remain indifferent to those struggling to find a better life. We are called to be an active Church in support of all of God’s children, for “the Church which ‘goes forth’… can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast” (Evangelii Gaudium, 24).

 

A new video from USCSAHT!

September 23, 2019

U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking is promoting its mission with a new short film! Many thanks to our members across the country who generously shared pictures of their activities that bring our mission to life every day.

The film will be available in Spanish next week, along with translations of the script in French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Swahili. We are grateful to the Sisters of the Divine Savior for the translations.

We invite you to share this film on your congregation’s website, and on your social media platforms. Help us spread the word about the great work being done by USCSAHT members throughout the country and beyond.   it clearly illustrates that Ending Slavery in Everyone’s Work!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLU9YzEb9E4