In EMS, we get to see people at their best and worst. It’s rewarding to deliver a healthy baby or have an accident victim walk into your station and thank you for saving them. We also have to deal with the overdoses, homicides and suicides, child abuse and domestic violence.
We see so many different things, and while we’re not law enforcement, we do have a duty to report cases that may be criminal in nature, such as child or elderly abuse, potential terrorist activity or domestic violence.
One such area we might not think about, though, is human trafficking. And this brings us to the Blue Campaign.
DHS created the Blue Campaign to help combat human trafficking, defined by DHS as, “the use of force, fraud or coercion to exploit someone for labor or commercial sex,” and it certainly includes minors.
This is not just an overseas or Third World problem. It is a problem that exists here in the United States today.
Denver, January 2012: 14 people were indicted on 70 counts of operating and patronizing a human trafficking ring that involved children being used for prostitution. This was occurring all over the state, ranging from Denver to the western slope of Colorado.
Using the global Blue Heart and Blue Blindfold programs as a basis, the campaign has three areas: prevention, protection and prosecution; DHS has created a fourth P: Partnerships.
The agency has begun reaching out to fire and EMS organizations to help improve awareness about human trafficking and this campaign. Since we’re on the front lines, we may be seeing, but not recognizing, patients who are the victims of human trafficking. These victims may present as everyday patients.
These patients need our help, and we may be the only ones who can recognize the signs and symptoms to intervene on their behalf. Sure, there’s always the risk that we may be wrong, but this risk isn’t any different from when we deal with suspected child or elderly abuse.
We do this job to help our fellow human beings, and with that comes an element of risk. But if not us, then who? Law enforcement isn’t always notified and they don’t always respond to every EMS call, but we do.
So, take the time to learn a little more about this campaign. Pass on the information to the rest of your members to improve their awareness on this subject. A runaway teenager and an observant school-resource officer brought down the Denver ring. You or one of your people may be the next ones to help stop this in your community.
The question is, are you willing to intervene?
Norris W. Croom III, EFO, CMO, is the deputy chief of operations for the Castle Rock (Colo.) Fire and Rescue Department. He’s been a member of the EMS Section since 1998 and currently serves as the section’s director at large.