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“Oh, that doesn’t happen around here, this is a safe place.” Everyone wants to believe that they live in a safe place where the only crimes committed are speeding on a neighborhood road or someone stealing from the closest Walmart, but that is not the case.
Ramon Heredia, an Omaha resident, was sentenced to 132 months of imprisonment in 2011 after being caught conducting human trafficking. In an interview with NET News, Heredia explained that the 13 and 15-year-old were vulnerable.
“I would charm them a little bit and let them think I’m nice,” Heredia said. “After a couple of weeks a lot of them came to live with me for whatever reason.”
Heredia then went on to explain that he would gradually force them to become prostitutes.
Nebraska is no stranger to sex trafficking. According to the FBI, I-80 plays a huge role in trafficking, as it gives individuals a large advantage in picking up people who have left home to sell into trading.
15 women were arrested in May of this year with a trafficking operation that connected to the Omaha area. Investigators said that the operation had earned anywhere from two to three million dollars.
In June of this year an additional 22 individuals were arrested for trafficking in the Omaha area.
10 of the individuals arrested in June were arrested for prostitution, eight for soliciting prostitution, two for theft, and one for possession of narcotics.
In Feb. of this year a 19-year-old from Bellevue pleaded guilty to attempted human trafficking. He was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison.
A Creighton University study showed that 900 people are sold into sex trafficking every month, with over 70% being from Nebraska.
Most individuals taken into trafficking in Nebraska are between the ages of 14 and 17-years-old.
In Nebraska, 11% of victims being sold for sex online are under the age of 21. 71% of sex trafficking reports for missing and exploited children are linked to ads on the website Backpage for those being sold.
Backpage and City Vibe have been used to advertise victims of human trafficking and are available to dozens of United States cities. The profits are linked to several stakeholders in the U.S.
The Creighton study also found that seven out of 10 individuals have at least one indicator of being trafficked. Many are underage and controlled by a third party, making it clear that they are being forced to commit the crime and are not willingly participating.
Creighton University developed the HTI to collect, analyze and evaluate the scope of sex trafficking and work to change policies that are ineffective in dealing with this issue.
The Omaha Women’s Fund is working towards a legislation that will put aside any criminal convictions put on individuals who were forced to commit crimes while in trafficking.
There are several organizations in the Omaha area for those who want to get more involved with putting an end to human trafficking.
Look out for the signs of trafficking, and don’t go anywhere alone.