News

Jan. 11 proclaimed 'Human Trafficking Awareness Day'

Renton Mayor Denis Law proclaimed Human Trafficking Awareness Day as Jan. 11, 2014 at this week's city council meeting.

According to police officials, human trafficking is an issue the police department experiences off and on in the city.

"The general consensus was that we have cases here and there, but not enough to consider it a "big problem" in the city," wrote Terri Vickers, police spokesperson in an email. "RPD is part of a multi-agency task force focused on human trafficking. Our officers have worked with the FBI, Seattle PD and other valley agencies, both as part of the task force and prior to the formation of the task force."

Retired Kent Police Captain Lorna Rufener was at Monday's council meeting for the proclamation. She was representing the Southeast King County Coalition Against Human Trafficking, one of eight branches of Washington Engage in the state.

The issue goes beyond just the cases encountered on the street to the pervasive access everyone home has to children exploited over the internet, she said in an interview.

"You can basically go online and order up a child in this country," she said. "It is happening and people are doing this on the internet."

State law defines human trafficking as two types of crimes: human trafficking and commercial sexual abuse of minors.

"I think basically because of the changes over the last few years of people using the internet to traffic children, you don't see it as much on the street," Rufener said.

In her work with the Kent Police Department, Rufener said officers would often encounter young women involved in human trafficking on Highway 99. Officers would sometimes take up a collection to send the women back home, but they felt frustrated there wasn't more they could do, she said.

Rufener helped to start the southeast branch of Washington Engage in April. The organization encourages grassroots efforts to fight against human trafficking. She and Linda Myers, co-founder and a retired school teacher, hope to raise awareness, educate the community and do prevention work in the future.

The average person can volunteer their different skill sets to become involved at the community level and raise awareness with their police departments, prosecutors and judges, Washington Engage recommends.

For more information, visit www.waengage.com.

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