A Pettis County group has formed to help raise awareness about human trafficking.
Pettis County Against Human Trafficking was formed by Pettis County residents in 2019 to bring awareness to human trafficking and they are hoping to continue to expand.
PCAT Co-Administrator Linda Boe said she became aware of the issue of human trafficking after Nanette Ward, head of the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, spoke at Boe’s church on the subject a couple of times.
“Her (Ward’s) presentations were wonderful,” Boe said. “She really knows her stuff...I really didn't know anything about human trafficking and I was amazed.”
Boe said she started seriously thinking about human trafficking after a couple of national news stories about the subject broke last summer.
“That kind of got me fired up. I thought, ‘What in the world?’” she explained. “I started thinking about my granddaughters and other people’s granddaughters and other people’s kids and kids in our area...I just got really concerned, especially for my grandkids. I was taking it personally. I would just die if one of my grandkids became a victim of human trafficking.”
Boe brought up the subject to Church Women United, where she is a member, and the group decided to host a public meeting at Convention Hall featuring Ward to raise awareness.
“I think most people think human trafficking happens in Los Angeles or in New York City,” Boe said. “It happens everywhere. I even read somewhere where there was a little town of 700 people that had human trafficking situations...Nanette says it’s the fastest growing industry in the world because of the almighty dollar. These traffickers make a whole lot of money kidnapping somebody, selling them to a trafficker and they do well financially.”
Boe said about 56 people came to the meeting and Ward asked willing attendees to write down their names and contact information on a list. Ward then gave the list of 16 people to Boe.
“I actually kind of stewed about it for probably four or five or six weeks not knowing what to do,” Boe explained. “I didn't envision going past the public meeting we had at Convention Hall. I thought that would be it...Then I thought, ‘Well I’ve got to do something.’”
Boe contacted all of the people on the list and set up a meeting in October. The group decided to host another public informational presentation to help with awareness.
“The group has basically decided that we need to continue,” Boe said. “We plan presentations to happen every three months. We want to keep it known to the citizens that it’s going on. We need to pay attention. If we didn't catch their attention the first time around maybe we will the second time around or the third time around or however many times around it takes.”
Boe said the group has members of all ages and hosts meetings once a month at the Boonslick Regional Library conference room. Their next presentation will be in April.
“We just really want to publicize that we need to do something about this,” Boe said. “If we only save one child from becoming a victim of human trafficking, hallelujah. That would be good enough. If we could save more than that, that would be wonderful.”
Boe said awareness is key in helping stop human trafficking and knowing what to do if a person thinks it is going on.
“We need to pay attention,” she said. “We need to be able to recognize it when we see it. Then when we see it or we think we see it we need to know what to do about it. That’s basically calling a number saying, ‘You know I think this person who works at such as such restaurant is a victim of human trafficking…’ We just pay attention and if we think we see it then we report it.”
Boe said the group was actively looking for more members.
“The more people, the more ideas it would be wonderful,” she said. “We want our organization to grow. We can’t have too many. … The (monthly) meetings last maybe an hour, an hour and a half. Sometimes we’ll have 16 people show up, sometimes we’ll have five people show up but we get things done so we would love to have more people get involved.”
To join the group or for more information, contact Boe at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.facebook.com/PettisCountyAgainstHumanTrafficking.