The truth about child sex trafficking and how to learn more

Child sex trafficking, which is defined as the commercial sexual exploitation of children, is unfortunately all around us. It is in our cities, in our rural communities and even in our suburban neighborhoods. It touches every part of our state.

Child sex trafficking impacts children of all genders, ages, race and ethnicity and socioeconomic backgrounds. According to the FBI’s Denver division, as social media access for children has expanded, it has also grown exponentially as a grooming and recruiting tool for child sex traffickers.

In 2016, the State of Colorado expanded the statutory definition of “child abuse or neglect” to include child sex trafficking. This change means that suspicion of or concern about child sex trafficking should be reported to the statewide Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, 1-844-CO-4-Kids (1-844-264-5437). The change also means that victims now have better access to services for treatment and recovery. 

Today, there is a concerted effort on the part of the FBI and state and local law enforcement, as well as the Colorado Department of Human Services and many of the 64 county departments of human services, to share information to protect suspected victims of child sex trafficking. Professionals now know that a child may not readily share his or her story with law enforcement out of fear and shame even after the child is separated from his/her trafficker. By working with human services and other valued community partners, law enforcement may be able to learn historical information about the child and discover details that help determine if a child is being trafficked. Once a child is recovered, these partnerships are also critical for helping caretakers understand the level of treatment these victims may need to get on the road to recovery.

“Across the state, human services and law enforcement agencies like the Colorado State Patrol are partnering on training, such as the Interdiction for the Protection of Children (IPC) training program,” said Michelle Dossey, MSW, Child Protection Intake Administrator for the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services. “The result is enhanced collaboration and trust across agencies, which will, in turn, improve identification, assessment and reintegration for kids who have been victims of child sex trafficking.” The Colorado State Patrol has invited Ms. Dossey and other community partners as guest speakers in the IPC training so law enforcement attendees can learn how community partnerships can help prevent and solve these crimes.

Law enforcement and child welfare, however, cannot combat child sex trafficking alone. We all play a role in preventing child sex trafficking. As members of the community, you can act as eyes and ears for law enforcement and human services. You don’t have to be a parent to recognize the signs of child sex trafficking. You could be a neighbor, coach, teacher or friend… it takes a community effort to make a positive difference in the life of a child.

Here’s information and resources available to law enforcement and community members to learn more about child sex trafficking:

For Law Enforcement:

Colorado State Patrol, Interdiction for the Protection of Children Training

The Colorado State Patrol's Smuggling and Trafficking Interdiction Section teaches the Interdiction for Protection of Children class; a two-day class for law enforcement developed by the Texas Department of Public Safety. IPC is a victim-centered program designed to educate patrol officers to better identify child endangerment situations, at-risk children and criminal offenders who target children so that appropriate action can be taken. For more information about this class, please call 303.273.1884 or email Blake.White@state.co.us.

Colorado Department of Public Safety, Human Trafficking Investigations, Coming Soon 

The Colorado Human Trafficking Council is developing a 2-hour training program for law enforcement officers called, Human Trafficking Investigations. To learn more about this future program please contact Maria Trujillo, Human Trafficking Program Manager at the Colorado Department of Public Safety, 303.239.4454 or email maria.trujillo@state.co.us.

FBI Innocence Lost Task Force

The FBI’s Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force investigates domestic minor sex trafficking cases. If your agency would like to contact them for assistance with providing guidance on investigations, interviewing, or victim services, please contact 303.629.7171.

For Community Members:

Colorado Department of Public Safety, An Introduction to Human Trafficking in Colorado

The Colorado Human Trafficking Council has developed a 2-hour training program for all sectors and community members called, An Introduction to Human Trafficking in Colorado. To learn more about this program please contact Maria Trujillo, Human Trafficking Program Manager at the Colorado Department of Public Safety, 303.239.4454 or email maria.trujillo@state.co.us.

For more information on signs that a child may be a victim of trafficking, visit the CO4Kids.org Signs of Child Sex Trafficking page.

You can also learn some helpful tips here on monitoring a child’s social media activity to safeguard against becoming a victim.

As always, to report a concern or suspicion about child sex trafficking or child abuse and neglect, call 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437). If a child is in immediate danger, dial 911.

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Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline
1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1‑844‑264‑5437)
Available 24 hours a day, every day. Don't hesitate to call and get help. 
Anyone witnessing a child in a life-threatening situation should call 911 immediately.