By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Oklahoma City Police Detective and FBI task force member Robert Kemmet discussed human trafficking with the Cleveland County GOP Club on Tuesday, revealing surprising facts about human exploitation and some tactics of modern child predators.
Kemmet defined human trafficking as any operation in which humans are a commodity, saying that more than 90 percent of human trafficking in the state is labor-related and calling the state’s sex trafficking — and particularly the child sex trafficking market — “negligible.”
“Child prostitution in Oklahoma is negligible at best. Most operations in the state are transient, and Oklahoma as a destination simply doesn’t have the market for large-scale sex trafficking,” Kemmet said. “Oklahoma’s market for prostitution itself is not very big, comparatively, and when we have issues crop up, law enforcement is fully capable of responding quickly.”
The highest concentration of human trafficking and labor exploitation, Kemmet said, occurs in northwest Oklahoma, with the most large-scale operations going on in rural farms and ranches.
In addition to basic facts/figures, Kemmet detailed the major challenges law enforcement faces in dealing with trafficking cases, the unforeseen negative outcomes of intervention and tips on types of charities donors should avoid.
“(The task force) isn’t going to jump on labor cases because we’re almost victimizing labor exploitation victims by taking them into custody,” Kemmet said. “We’re walking a fine line, because if we go in and take down a major operation with hundreds and hundreds of ‘victims,’ only one will qualify for a testimony visa. The rest will be deported.
“Even those who do qualify for a visa are now left in a foreign country homeless and jobless and aren’t necessarily willing to testify against an employer who paid them more than they earned back home.
“What’s more, if we go in and shut down a big operation, we’re likely destroying jobs of innocent people who weren’t involved. So, everyone gets very negatively affected.”
Kemmet said the Salvation Army is a major provider of much-needed victim services addressing the post-intervention issue.
“When you hear of organizations focusing on victim services, that’s great, but those saying they’re going to go out and find a problem is very different and often mucks up cases for investigators,” Kemmet said. “This huge influx of public scrutiny and fundraising for anti-human trafficking efforts has caused a lot more hurt than help because the vultures are all over it.
“If you hear an organization wanting money for human-trafficking response, ask for case numbers, victims’ names that they’ve already helped and find out which agency investigated the case.”
During questions from the audience, Kemmet shared valuable tips for parents about how to protect their families from child predators, based on the police force’s high-tech mapping, surveillance and extensive presence online.
“Facebook is not a great target market for predators because a vast majority of under-aged Facebook users have daily interaction/connection with adult family members who can see what the child is posting and who they’re talking to,” Kemmet said.
A real danger that many parents may be unaware of is bumper stickers on the family vehicle.
“During surveillance of an online conversation between two child predators, one revealed that the bumper stickers on a family vehicle gave him everything he needed to know to pose as a family friend of his targeted victim: how many kids are in the family, what sports they play, their numbers, names, everything,” Kemmet said. “All the information he needs to approach a kid when they’re alone, dropped off at practice, etc. is on the back of Mom’s car.”
Above all, Kemmet emphasized that the best way for parents to protect children against “real-world” and online predators is open communication and trust.
“The internet is the modern kid’s world. Parents who react to a possible threat by cutting off all their child’s access to this world will create mistrust and resentment between themselves and their kids,” Kemmet said. “The answer is open communication. If your kid feels comfortable talking to you about something strange, you can then report it to (the police) and we can put more predators away.”
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