Human trafficking can happen in any work environment. That’s why all businesses should be proactive in learning about the signs of labor and sex trafficking. You never know who could walk through your doors – whether that’s a victim who needs assistance, or a dangerous trafficker who should be reported to law enforcement.
One such vulnerable work environment is the retail sector, which includes shops, convenience stores, gas stations and health and beauty salons. Human trafficking can impact the retail sector in many ways. Traffickers and victims may go to stores, salons or other places together and the trafficker will likely demonstrate strict control over the victim. An older man or trafficker lavishing a young person or victim with expensive gifts is another possible trafficking scenario.
Here’s what you need to know about human trafficking signs in the retail sector.
Organized Retail Crime
Not all signs of human trafficking in the retail sector are easy to identify. Another instance of a trafficker’s criminal scheme could include organized retail theft such as shoplifting and resale. Businesses should link loss prevention efforts with human trafficking knowledge, as traffickers often force victims to shoplift and commit other retail-related crimes. The traffickers are intentionally removed from the actual crime being committed — that is their plan. This practice is also known as Organized Retail Crime or ORC.
ORC includes professional shoplifting, cargo theft and any other organized crime that happens in a retail setting. These crimes fund the human trafficking organization’s work. Another example of this is the forced labor of traveling sales crews selling stolen goods door-to-door. There are also cases in which traffickers force victims to steal gift cards, and then take advantage of the anonymity of these gift cards and use them to place ads selling sex trafficking victims online or for other nefarious purposes.
Human Trafficking Signs and Red Flags
Here are some common trafficking identifiers you might see in a retail environment:
- Odd transactions like purchasing multiple burner phones.
- The purchase of large quantities of sex and pregnancy-related items like condoms, lubricant, pregnancy tests or Plan B pills.
- An individual paying for large transactions with cash.
- A person controlling the purchaser’s transactions and not letting them hold their own money or identification.
Traffickers rarely “snatch and grab” or kidnap from retail parking lots or around stores. Instead, that might be the behavior of a stalker or someone with bad intentions – not a trafficker, who’s main purpose is to make a profit. Their methods of recruitment take place over time, where they lure the victim in with false promises and build trust or “groom” them into sex or labor trafficking activity.
Public-facing staff need to pay attention and apply knowledge of what human trafficking looks like to what they already know about retail crime. It is important to continue to follow company protocols regarding calls to law enforcement for any suspected criminal activity.
What You Can Do
Non-public facing management retail staff need to be mindful of organized crime by developing and following protocols and making an effort to train their staff to analyze transactions. They must remember to verify organized crime activity and run vetted criminal data against vendors and guests. In addition, management staff should be ensuring that human trafficking is part of their fraud and theft analysis. Retail managers have the opportunity to identify and work with law enforcement to build links between retail crime and human trafficking, drug prosecutions or other crimes.
How Does Your Workplace STAC Up?
Does your business or organization “STAC” up when it comes to protecting your workplace and preventing human trafficking?
STACPRO is anti-trafficking training specifically tailored to our community – and Leon County’s businesses have a unique and important role to stop, prevent and respond to human trafficking. CLICK HERE to register for free STACPRO training today.