The fight against human trafficking is still ongoing in Nebraska and Iowa


    OMAHA, Ne (FOX42KPTM) - From state troopers to the Salvation Army and even Nebraska high school students, the fight against human trafficking has gotten a lot of help the past several years.

    "Awareness has been such an important thing," said Stephanie Olson, the leader of the Set Me Free Project. "When they're engaged it gets the community engaged."

    In 2015, an Omaha task force revealed more than 200 people in the metro had fallen victim to trafficking between the start and middle of this decade. Olson remembers how shocking it was hearing about a crime like this in a place like this.

    "Not only was Omaha and Nebraska as a whole affected by trafficking, we were actually a hot spot."

    Olson's Set Me Free Project focuses on the dangers of trafficking and prevention education.

    "Our goal is to stop trafficking before it starts."

    For Olson, that goal is what drives her. She says her group visits more than 100 schools every year in Nebraska and Iowa to get the word out about safety. She believes that effort is working.

    "One of the biggest things we say to kids is always know who you're talking to on social media. Knowing means we've actually had an exchange and an interaction."

    At the national level, human trafficking numbers are grim. The federal government estimates there are more than 300,000 victims every year with a lot of young children at risk. The justice department puts that number at more than 100,000.

    Closer to home, Olson says her trips to schools aren't just quick visits.

    "There's a lot of information that needs to be given."

    Last year, Omaha city leaders offered a progress report about their campaign to stop trafficking. It was announced more than 1,200 hotel workers from Omaha to Lincoln have now been trained to spot warning signs.

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