As solar eclipse nears, the fight against human trafficking is ramping up
OMAHA, Ne (FOX42KPTM) - In less than three weeks, hundreds of thousands of people from around the world will come to Nebraska for the solar eclipse. It's such a high number the Nebraska State Patrol is now getting ready for the possibility human trafficking will go up, too. Local businesses are also prepared to be on the lookout for trouble.
In the United States, the federal government estimates there are about 300,000 victims of human trafficking every year.
"That's absolutely surprising," said Tim Darby, a hotel general manager.
What shocked Darby just as much are how many young people are at risk. The justice department puts that number at more than 100,000.
"That really is what grabs your attention. This is truly real life right here," said Darby.
As people get ready for the solar eclipse, the state of Nebraska will be packed with visitors. Hundreds of thousands are expected to show up. With that many people, the Nebraska State Patrol is now watching for a possible increase in human trafficking. Hotel general managers like Darby are already on the lookout.
"This just enhances the awareness."
Don't think something like this can happen in Nebraska? Just ask Rachel Pointer. When she was just six years old, she got sucked into the world of human trafficking right here in Omaha.
"That just kind of broke me a lot."
In her case, the person responsible for exploiting her was a neighbor.
"Right next door. He knew exactly where I lived. He even knew where I slept."
Back at the Magnolia Hotel, staffers are now trained to spot signs of trouble like poor physical health, lack of control, abnormal behavior and no sense of time.
"We need to be aware at all times," said Darby.
In all, more than 90 hotels in the greater Omaha area have received training with regard to human trafficking. That includes the Magnolia Hotel. The hope is that more hotels in other parts of the state will receive that training.