TUCSON – The Department of Homeland Security and victim advocate organizations have said that COVID-19 has lead to a rise in sex trafficking.
With some people falling on hard times due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tammy Breitzke, a special agent with DHS, said there are people turning to sex trafficking to make money.
“People have lost their jobs, lost their child care services, kids are not in school, they’re facing a lot of new challenges,” Breitzke said. “They’re considering other options so they can make an income, so they can pay their rent and feed their children and they can survive.”
Breitzke works with SAATURN, or the Southern Arizona Anti-Trafficking United Response Network.
SAATURN is made up of law enforcement agencies and prosecutors throughout the area, along with various non-profits.
Breitzke said she has been seeing more ads on Craigslist, dating sites and escort sites during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Ads that don’t look familiar to me,” Breitzke said. “The faces don’t look familiar to me, the language in the ads doesn’t quite look familiar to me, which indicates maybe there are new people entering into the sex trade.”
SAATURN and its partners offer a number of services including shelter, counseling, mental health care and drug treatment for victims of all ages.
“A common misconception of human trafficking is that they have to be a certain type of victim,” Breitzke said. “That they have to be a foreign national or they have to be a child. A human trafficking victim can be anyone. There’s no age, there’s no gender, there’s no race.”
If you know someone who needs to get out of a vulnerable situation, please call or text the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to 233-733.