KENNETT, MO (KFVS) - You might think it's a problem in foreign countries, or big cities, but the SEMO Rescue and Restore Coalition said human trafficking is a problem in the Heartland.
"Human trafficking is happening in our own backyards," said Sandra Self with the coalition.
"It's hard for us because we're kind of, we think we're insulated, here in the Midwest, you know in the middle of the country thinking that would never happen around here, but unfortunately it does," said Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter.
"We get too comfortable in our mindset, oh that's there, that's in another country, that's in another big city state, that's not here….unfortunately that's what will set you up for being that vulnerable gullible person," said Karen Hunter Krueger with the Dunklin County Health Department.
The coalition aims to create awareness on the problem of human trafficking.
"We just want to educate the community so maybe they're aware, and maybe help identify potential victims," said Self.
"There's no doubt that it's out there, it could be anywhere and it could be right here in our back door, I believe that it is, it's difficult to get people to come forward because they're afraid, they're scared," said Walter.
The coalition is helping train law enforcement on what to look for, but instances like this are difficult, almost impossible to find, document or charge.
"Whenever we go to a place where there's potential problem, where this may be going on these people are scared of law enforcement, and I understand that because some of them may not be citizens of the United States, and if they deal with us they're afraid we're going to send them back to where they came from," said Walter
While you might associate the term "human trafficking" with sex trafficking, Sandra Self said labor and child trafficking are big problems too.
The coalition talks about issues like debt bondage, which is when a person is tricked into working to pay off a debt instead of for money, but the debt is rarely ever paid and so the worker is unable to leave.
"Everyone is vulnerable to trafficking," said Self. "There's labor trafficking, there's child trafficking, and we're also very concerned with our youth and young adults and sex trafficking."
"Individuals who are unscrupulous and will take advantage and worm their way into whatever circumstance these individuals their potential victims are found," said Krueger.
Now the coalition wants help from people in the community too.
"Yes it does go on, and it's not somewhere else, and you have to be ready to perhaps step up and help someone," said Krueger. "To be that person, to take that extra step, to help someone get out of a very hellish situation."
At the meetings, the members talk about outreach and education to drivers at truck stops, workers in beauty and nail salons, and those who speak foreign languages.
If you want more information on the coalition and how you can get involved go to their website at www.stoptraffickingmo-il.org.