SAFE CENTRAL: How runaway, delinquent juveniles are vulnerable to trafficking

Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 5:54 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - News Channel Five’s month-long series into human trafficking in Central Louisiana continues. Most victims in the area are juveniles.

“Human trafficking, to me, is the type of activity where a person is either exploited for sex or labor in an unfair situation under duress,” District Court Judge John Davidson said.

“It is shockingly regular. We see the cases on a weekly basis and sometimes even more than that,” he said.

He believes juveniles who show delinquent behavior or run away from home are at risk of trafficking.

“We have some predators in our community who circle like vultures looking for weakness,” he said. “When they spot the weaknesses on somebody, generally they have some delinquent behaviors or a runaway status.”

He also said traffickers are aware of common areas runaway juveniles frequently go to. The judge said the traffickers may offer the child food or shelter, which builds a relationship.

Dasha Black with Rapides Parish Juvenile Services and F.I.N.S. believes a child’s life plays a role in trafficking cases.

“Runaway children are looking to fill that empty void,” Black said. “They find that with someone exchanging them for sex, drugs or money.”

She said one way parents can keep their kids safe is by listening.

“When kids come into my office, there’s a barrier between them and their parents,” Black said. “Children want to be heard and understood.”

Davidson said many trafficking victims display delinquent behaviors or commit crimes. He said his job is finding out the full story and getting the juvenile resources to heal.

“We’re concerned about the long-lasting effects of trauma on their maturity and their development,” he said. “I could be dealing with a 14-year-old accused of delinquent behavior who’s actually a survivor of human trafficking. They may have the maturity level of a six or seven-year-old. I need to get that information so we can make the appropriate decision.” he said.

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