Sex trafficking in Glenwood Springs often goes unreported to law enforcement, but Battlement to the Bells Anti Trafficking Task Force is working to ensure victims of sex trafficking at those at risk of becoming victims are supported.
Airen Goodman, a BATT board member, is working on partnerships with YouthZone while staying up to date with current human trafficking trends.
Goodman said the organization has provided services to several child trafficking victims in Garfield County within the last year.
“Over the last year, we’ve had three or four female minors that were victims of trafficking in the area,” Goodman said.
Goodman said BATT also works closely with law enforcement to provide training on how to help victims of trafficking.
Helping those victims can be a challenge, said Det. Jeff Fain with the Glenwood Springs Police Department.
Fain explained that victims of sex trafficking, or any type of human trafficking, are often conditioned by their abusers to believe they’ll be criminalized if they seek help from law enforcement.
“It’s a seriously underreported crime,” Fain said.
“The hope is to put some programming and services in place for youth that are at risk or victims of human trafficking. They’re looking at starting like a day drop in center,” Goodman said. “There’s been discussion about using the YouthZone basement in the Glenwood Springs office as the center’s location.”
The YouthZone Basement is not set up to provide services or programs as of yet, Goodman said.
“We do hold youth groups, meetings and have had art classes in the past for youth. The goal with BATT is to turn that into a day center to provide a safe space for homeless or endangered youth to go to receive services, resources and get their basic needs met and keep them off the streets.
“We are in the planning phase now and the biggest obstacle is the funding issue.”
The fundraising goal is set at $1 million to establish the basement location.
“That would help with reconstruction to get everything up to code, furnishing, staffing needs, rent, materials, etc.,” Goodman said.
So far, $17,000 has been raised, which will go towards support current training efforts for the community.
Goodman said there’s been times where she’s been called to assist a client who’s been trafficked.
“They would call me and we’d help arrange with community providers who can help with various services,” Goodman said.
“We got one client set up with emergency housing and parent consultation. We provided parent support and made sure she was getting the support she needed.”
Goodman said children who runaway from home are most at risk of becoming victims of sex trafficking.
Fain said no definitive reports of sex trafficking have been made over the last couple years.
“I’ve definitely had a couple of suspected reports and we did indeed recover a girl from North Carolina two months ago,” Fain said.
In September of 2019, a child prositution sting operation resulted in the arrest of nine men in Glenwood Springs.
Fain said that during the sting operation, the amount of adults soliciting sex from chidlren online and the distance the predators were willing to travel “was pretty incredible.”
Fain said there are girls that come through Glenwood Springs to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights before heading for the next town, but the police department has been unable to confirm that the girls were victims of sex trafficking.
In the case of the girl recovered from North Carolina, Fain said the most important thing is that she is now safe and has been provided with safe housing—a service BATTS also helps provide.
“Some of what we have done for our local youth is respond to victims in crisis late at night to assist with transporting home from out of state, provide meals, emergency backpacks with basic necessities and assist finding a safe shelter and providing ongoing support for youth and their parents and linking them to appropriate community resources,” Goodman said.
A lot of that training centers on how to provide help to someone who has been through traumatic experiences.
“There’s a lot of trauma history with the family. Either the youth is caught up in the court services or the Department of Human Services has intervened at one point,” Goodman said.
No matter the time of day, Goodman said BATT is ready to provide assistance to trafficking victims.
“If someone gets a call we just kind of call the troops and respond. We have an emergency backpack with hygiene items and gift cards. We try to find them a safe place,” Goodman said.
”A lot of them — their parents are looking for them. Sometimes there’s conflict with the parents where the child runs away,” Goodman said.
Goodman said BATT typically assists victims ages 10 to 18.
“We are really wanting to extend the age group we assist to 24,” Goodman said.
Goodman said young adults aging out of the foster child system are at risk of trafficking.
“If kids are aging out at 18 years old, their brains aren’t fully developed. We want to be able to help them, too,” Goodman said.
The public can help trafficking victims by becoming informed about the signs that may indicate a person is a victim of sex trafficking.
Goodman said those signs include a minor being homeless or having strange markings or tattoos on their bodies.
BATT is also providing training to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, specifically for bus drivers who may come across sex trafficking victims.
For more information on training or educational opportunities, go to BATT’s website at https://b2btaskforce.com/.
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.