Human trafficking in retail malls and shopping centres

Shopping malls are “easy pickings”

The mall is one of the first places young teenagers are allowed to go without adult supervision for the first time. Something must be going horrifically wrong, because 11,000 victims/year in the USA, 13,000 in the UK, and some 1,000’s in countries like Australia fall easy pray to traffickers who groom, flatter and trick both children and fully grown adults into the fastest growing crime in the world: human trafficking.

(See: How an intelligent lawyer was nearly tricked into being sold)

60% of all runaways are approached by traffickers within 48 hours!

The mall is also the first place the bullied teenager goes when they run away. Scroll down to the REAL STORIES below that range from being approached in famous cosmetic store chains, to downmarket mini-market sores to being sex tafficked in luxury malls

We tackled “stranger danger” – now: BEWARE THE FLATTERER!

Teenagers who have been groomed and tricked, and later rescued, often describe their trafficker as starting out as “the most wonderful person in the world” (until they show their true colours later on with victims enduring savage beatings, and rape after rape). The 1960’s and 70’s started the “stranger danger” campaigns – now we need to teach our children to “beware the flatterer”.

When children are tricked by flattery, with a 1% chance of escaping, their only hope becomes the public keeping their eyes peeled, watching for red flags.

It’s easy to think the victim will be nervous, looking down, not making eye contact, in grubby clothes. While that can happen, it’s also often the opposite: the young girl with expensive hair extensions, acrylic nails, and wild, fantastic, often expensive, clothes and jewellery. It’s very easy to learn the red flags to look for, and even easier to learn what to do if you see something suspicious. Here are just a few of the red flags:

🚩 Before anything has even happened – ask why is that child alone, in a mall, on a school-day?

🚩 Adults loitering in a mall for long periods of time for no reason.

🚩 It’s not just adults (male or female remember!) approaching a child they don’t know, its often other young trafficked victims making the first approach, often talking to the victims about hair or nails before the trafficker arrives to take over

🚩 Suspicious of overly expensive gifts, flattery, repeat customers who arrive with a different girl each time

🚩 Aggressive or dominating behaviour (remember traffickers are OFTEN women, and can be a child victim themselves!)

🚩 Under-age children buying sex aids, condoms, lubricant, massage oil etc

🚩 Regular or unusual purchase of prepaid phones and “burner” phones, store cards and gift cards

🚩 The trafficker will often answer questions on behalf of their victim, not allowing them to speak

🚩 Any signs of physical abuse

If you see something –
say something

Things are changing. Legislation is changing, attitudes are changing. The “child prostitutes” of the past are now seen for what they are – true victims. Police are being trained how to respond and help victims, and charities, non-profits, informal groups and individuals are all pitching in the fight. But, they can help act IF YOU SAY SOMETHING.

The people involved might have already left the scene, it might have been months ago – but still go and report it. Those numbers add up, the little pieces of information. It helps police piece together tiny pieces of information. These days police take reports seriously, and treat “gut feelings” about someone credibly.

“Better safe, than sorry”

Be Prepared

βœ”οΈŽ Be prepared so you are calm and you act within the law. Vigilante justice gets people killed, or locked up in jail, and that could be you! It is better to let someone go, than put your own life at risk, and perhaps risk the life of the victim as well.

βœ”οΈŽ Everything you read tells you: “remember what they look like”. But, any witness will tell you they can hardly remember what happened, much less what happened. Witnesses are notoriously unreliable identifying people in line-ups. One tip is simply to train yourself any time you’re in a shopping mall or airport to take notice of people’s shoes. Just that ONE THING: their shoes. The more you train your eye, the more likely you are to remember a trafficker’s and victim’s shoes, and then, as it is an invaluable memory jog, hopefully remember the whole picture to describe to authorities.

βœ”οΈŽ The ultimate – if there’s any chance of getting someone to hand over their ID (safely and legally) then take that chance! You can even go to your bank and explain that you would like a handful of credit card application forms, just in case that one day comes where you could say to someone :”I have inroads with the bank, they are offering free credit cards this weekend, would you like to apply?”. Often coat checkers, and car washes at the mall are a wonderful source of knowledge.

βœ”οΈŽ Get them to look up! There’s cameras everywhere these days. If you suddenly pretend you see something and can trick them into looking straight into a camera lens, that might be the one and only opportunity for cameras to capture their features. Remember stay safe, and stay within the law. Think ahead. Plan what you would do and say, SAFELY!

βœ”οΈŽ Every checkout register should have the human trafficking hotline right there. Train your staff not to wait for management to make the phone call, it can be too late. Sometimes local police are not equipped, nor having the training to deal with, or understand of, trafficking victims. Find the human trafficking hotline in your country, and have it ready!

Technology & phone apps that save lives

βœ”οΈŽAll shopping mall staff and security should be aware of the latest phone apps that truly save lives. One press of a button, and phone app starts recording, sending information to police, along with the GPS position. You could even go to the extent of pressing the safety app, have it live and running and sneak into a girl’s bag without a trafficker noticing. That may be the only way police ever find them – from the gps on these life-saving new aps.

How you can help:

Terrifying escape stories: