Department of Public Safety releases anti-human trafficking posters
JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Department of Public Safety Friday released human trafficking posters that some businesses will be required to display in the new year.
The Missouri General Assembly passed a bill last year which requires certain businesses, such as truck stops, strip clubs, urgent care centers and airports, to hang the posters.
The posters prominently display the number for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline, a toll-free hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also includes the text hotline and Trafficking Resource Center website.
The posters must be displayed either in the bathroom or entrance of buildings where they are required. The posters are available online or by mail.
Nanette Ward, a board member of the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, said she is hopeful about the new posters since they have made a difference in other states.
"Having the numbers, having a short description about people who are forced to engage in commercial sex, house work, farm work or other activities," Ward said. "You can start to imagine there are people that might be happening to right here in our community."
But the posters are not just aimed at educating members of the community. They are also geared towards victims.
"Maybe they have never heard of the word trafficking, maybe they don't know they are the victim of an actual crime but know they are stuck in something awful," Ward said. "They can see the description of the poster if there is some form of forced engagement in an activity, labor, or commercial sex, and they'll realize that is what is happening to them."
Ward hopes the posters bring awareness to the reality of human trafficking.
"People are often thinking it is happening somewhere else, whether it is overseas or closer to home in a big city like St. Louis," Ward said. "But, if you see a poster here, right in your local businesses, it will make you stop and think this is something that we need to be concerned about right here in our own community."
According to the Department of Public Safety, the Missouri State Highway Patrol has also stepped up its efforts to combat human trafficking in the last couple of months.
Since June, 307 troopers have undergone specialized training on how to identify signs that a child may be in danger during a routine traffic stop. Since the training, troopers have initiated 22 investigations, the department said.
Businesses that fail to hang the poster will receive a warning, and be cited for any additional violations. The new law officially goes into effect on March 1.